HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - More than 250 alleged sex buyers and traffickers were arrested on prostitution charges during a month-long sting operation conducted by the Harris County Sherrif's Office and the Houston Police Department.
HCSO and HPD accounted for one quarter of the more than 1,000 arrests made by a coalition of law enforcement agencies called the National Johns Suppression Initiative, according to HCSO.
Working in coordination with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, HCSO deputies arrested 161 alleged sex buyers, while HPD officers arrested 88 alleged sex buyers and nine alleged sex traffickers.
“Our aim is for Harris County and Houston to shed the dubious distinction as America’s sex trafficking capital.” 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 sheriff also said that HCSO is shifting their focus to the traffickers and people buying sex as opposed to selling it, who are often victims.
The district attorney's staff says that the numbers speak for themselves - a year ago, twice as many people were arrested for allegedly selling sex versus buying. So far this year, more alleged buyers have been charged.
"There's been such an amazing mind shift in law enforcement over the last 4 years," says Allison Madrigal, found of Rescue Houston. The organization works to help victims have a better life.
Photos: Hundreds of alleged sex buyers arrested in month-long operation
Anyone convicted of trying to buy sex faces up to six months in jail for a first offense and even more jail time if they're a repeat offender or if the victim is a minor.
Advocates say if you see something that doesn't seem right, call the trafficking hotline at 888-373-3888.