HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — On National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office announced 71 people were arrested in a month-long investigation known as "Operation Interception."
The operation, according to HCSO, was created to "combat human trafficking leading up to the Super Bowl coming to Tampa in February 2021."
"With less than a month until the big game, our covert operations continue, seeking those who choose to sexually exploit others here in our community,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “Our goal, as the operation name explains, is to ‘intercept’ individuals involved in sexual exploitation before they are able to take advantage of vulnerable individuals, and ultimately, to deter others."
During the month-long operation, which ran from December 7, 2020, through January 9, 2021, undercover detectives posted online ads saying they were available to meet up and sell themselves for sex. Female detectives also posed as prostitutes on the streets.
71 "Johns" were arrested and charged with soliciting another to commit prostitution or entering/remaining in a place for prostitution. Some received additional charges, including drug possession.
“Like any major sporting event, the Super Bowl should not be a venue where these types of crimes occur on the sidelines, whether it's before, during, or after the game,” said Sheriff Chronister. “We know from past experiences with major sporting events that there will be some who travel for the exclusive purpose of taking advantage of women and children. I want to make it very clear, if you are planning to engage in the sexual exploitation of others, I’m urging you to think twice. We will find you, and you will be arrested."