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Nearly 200 'johns' arrested in Harris County

178 people arrested throughout operation, Sheriff's Office says

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HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – The Harris County Sheriff's Office and the Houston Police Department have led the nation in the annual National Johns Suppression Initiative.

The initiative ran from Jan. 18 to Feb. 5, or Super Bowl Sunday. The Sheriff's Office said the initiative included nearly 30 law enforcement agencies across 15 states.

The arrest rate and number of agencies that participated were the highest to date since NJSI operations began, the Sheriff's Office said.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Police Department ranked first and second place respectively. The Sheriff's Office said the agencies were followed closely by Cook County, Illinois, which is the location of the initiative's foundation.

[PHOTOS: Nearly 200 'Johns' arrested in Harris County]

NJSI operations were conceived of and launched by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart in 2011 to bring further attention to the "tragic and exploitative nature of the sex trafficking industry," the Harris County Sheriff's Office said. The participating agencies across the nation have arrested more than 6,500 sex buyers and traffickers since the operations began.

"I'm exceedingly proud to lead the nation in targeting sex buyers and traffickers during this annual initiative," Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. "Houston was home to Super Bowl LI. As we welcomed the world to our city, we made it clear that there is no place for victimization and sexual exploitation."

The Harris County Sheriff's Office said it arrested 178 sex buyers throughout the operation.

The total HCSO arrests equal the statewide totals of Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Nevada and Virginia combined, the Sheriff's Office said.