FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas – Nearly a dozen law enforcement agencies joined together in three sting operations across the Houston area, resulting in the arrest of 41 alleged perpetrators, including five pimps, and seven rescues - one being a juvenile, according to authorities.
The Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office and Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance held a press conference Wednesday to discuss the county’s operations to stop human trafficking in the community.
Bryan Middleton, Fort Bend County District Attorney, announced the successful completion of three separate operations called “Trick or Treat,” initiated in October; “Operation Front Line,” initiated in November and “Operation Snow Flake,” initiated in January.
“Being purchased for sex and being in trafficking is one of the most horrific things anyone can experience,” Elaine Andino, said.
Elaine Andino serves as the Chief Programs and Strategy Officer at United Against Human Trafficking. Andino said trafficking is a big problem in our area.
“Statistics show that one in three men in Houston buys sex, and often it takes place online,” she said.
Andino adds it’s a difficult journey after a victim is sold and exploited.
“Their identities have been stolen. It’s hard to open a bank account, and their credit score is ruined because traffickers steal their identities,” she said.
The operations, which were a huge success, included the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, Missouri City Police Department, Sugar Land Police Department, Houston Police Department, Rosenberg Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Waller County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Homeland Security - Houston (HSI)
Middleton said the DA’s Office remains committed to eliminating crime in the community, providing safety for people and protecting women and children because of their vulnerability status.
Mark Hanna, chief of the DA’s Office Special Crimes Division, said the goal during October’s initiative was to suppress buyers of sex services, which ended with 26 arrests of those who were trying to purchase sex over the internet. He said suppressing the demand for online solicitation will help reduce victims.
Hanna said the second operation in November, in which Missouri City took lead, ended with seven arrests of those trying to purchase sex. In the Snow Flake operation, which was a multi-purpose operation, seven victims, including a juvenile, were rescued and five pimps were arrested.
He said he was thankful they were able to remove victims from dangerous situations and wants to hold anyone trafficking victims accountable.
Hanna said his message to the community is clear, think before you act. Every time someone engages in solicitation for sex, you could instead be speaking with an officer.
To learn more about the United Against Human Trafficking organization, click here.
Watch the full press conference below: