HOUSTON – More than 250 sex buyers and traffickers were arrested on prostitution charges during a month-long sting by the Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff's Office.
A national coalition of law enforcement agencies called the National Johns Suppression Initiative made over 1,000 arrests between June 28 and July 31. Law enforcement agencies in 17 states took part in the operation.
Harris County deputies arrested 161 sex buyers and HPD officers arrested 88 sex buyers and nine sex traffickers.
“Our aim is for Harris County and Houston to shed the dubious distinction as America’s sex trafficking capital,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. “By focusing our efforts on sex buyers who are seeking to take advantage of sex trafficking victims, we are putting these predators on notice that our community won’t tolerate their behavior.”
The annual operation is coordinated by the Cook County Sheriff's Office in Illinois.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit operated the sting with the cooperation of eight area hotels.
They made a handful of significant arrests:
- A man in possession of 60 grams of hydrocodone and $4,360 cash, which was submitted for possible seizure.
- A man who was previously arrested for prostitution by the Vice Unit in January.
- A convicted sex offender.
- A man in possession of $6,722, which was submitted for possible seizure.
- Two suspects with handguns in their vehicles.
“I want to commend the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit for their tireless work to make our community safer for our most vulnerable residents,” Gonzalez said. “We will continue to vigorously pursue sex buyers so that they never feel comfortable paying for sex in Harris County.”
The Houston Area Women’s Center is deep in the trenches in the fight to stop sex trafficking in Houston. The center provides support services to victims and survivors.
“It’s happening right in our backyard. It’s so important to address this issue. Those numbers are astonishing and it’s so important that we still come together to try and help reduce those numbers. It is our responsibility as a community to respond as well,” said Celinda Guerra of the Houston Area Women’s Center.