(NewsNation) — Authorities have rescued 24 possible human trafficking victims and arrested 213 people during the course of a seven-day investigation in Florida.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit started Operation Traffic Stop on Feb. 6. While specific details of the operation were limited, investigators said those traveling to provide prostitution services were screened by detectives and social services organizations to determine if they were being trafficked or exploited by others.
Together, the organizations and detectives identified 24 possible human trafficking victims and offered to help them.
“Not only did we arrest more suspects during this single operation than we have ever arrested before, we identified 24 human trafficking victims — the highest number of victims we’ve ever rescued during one of these investigations,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. “The valuable relationships that we have with the social services organizations who join us in these operations make it possible for these women to get help and be emancipated from this way of life.”
The investigation resulted in the arrests of: 89 people suspected of soliciting a prostitute and traveling to the undercover location to negotiate sex for money; 111 people accused of prostitution: and 13 others, 10 of whom face allegations of either deriving proceeds from prostitution or aiding and abetting prostitution.
The sheriff noted that of those arrested, 14 are suspected of being in the country illegally from Cuba and Mexico; of those 14, six were identified as victims of human trafficking.
Thirty-five suspects reportedly told detectives they are married, and five suspects were previously arrested by the sheriff’s office during a similar bust. Authorities also reported seizing fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana from those arrested.
The suspects range in age from 19 to 68. Detectives charged them with a total of 68 felonies and 308 misdemeanors.
If you or someone you know needs help or resources, the National Human Trafficking Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-888-373-7888. Support is provided in more than 200 languages.
Find more information at this link.