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More than 100 arrested in Polk's undercover human trafficking operation

Sheriff Grady Judd
Posted at 11:02 AM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 11:55:06-04

The Polk County Sheriff's Office arrested 108 people in its undercover human trafficking operation called March Sadness 2.

According to PCSO, detectives identified prostitutes who posted online advertisements as well as the “johns” who were seeking out the prostitutes via online communications, with the intent to identify and free any victims who were being forced into prostitution (human trafficking), or anyone participating in the trafficking of victims. Detectives also identified and investigated adults who engaged in online sexually charged communications with those they believed were children—four men were arrested for preying on children online.

Undercover detectives communicated online with the suspects and arranged for a meetup at a location where they were arrested after their arrival. Members of anti-trafficking organizations were on hand to speak with the prostitutes to help determine if they were human trafficking victims. They were then offered services and counseling.

The oldest arrest was a 67-year-old man and the youngest was a 17-year-old.

“The arrests of a human trafficker and four child predators alone makes this whole operation worthwhile," Sheriff Grady Judd said. "The on-line prostitution industry enables traffickers and victimizes those who are being trafficked. Our goal is to identify victims, offer them help, and find and arrest those who are profiting from the exploitation of human beings. Johns fuel the trafficking and victimization. Where there is prostitution, there is exploitation, disease, dysfunction, and broken families.”