9 pimps and johns arrested in Merced as part of statewide crackdown on sex trafficking

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"Don't do it because it's not anonymous and we will come after you," said Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell. (KFSN)

Detectives say this year their focus was to attack supply and demand.

"Don't do it because it's not anonymous and we will come after you," said Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell.

A three-day statewide prostitution sting ended with this firm warning from police. In Merced, nine men have already gotten a taste of the punishment and embarrassment.

"We had over 100 calls just from our first ad, within the first three, four hours," said Merced Police Department Sgt. Alan Ward.

Sgt. Ward knows Merced has a big human trafficking problem on its hands. The only way to tackle it is through supply and demand.

First, they answered online ads to meet up with prostitutes--detaining them, while searching their phone for the pimps in control.

"It's becoming a lot more difficult because they are hiding what they are doing. You are talking $10,000 to 15,000 a week," said Sgt. Ward.

Officers also posted fake ads on popular commercial sex websites and within a few hours, they arrested seven johns and the demands have not stopped.

"Since completion, we've had over 300 more calls," said Sgt. Ward.

Investigators believe human trafficking exploded nationwide as a result of gangs. Many have found it a more lucrative trade than selling drugs.

"Narcotics have much stricter laws and in California, they've made it all misdemeanors so it's lowered the price of narcotics to where they aren't making as much money," said Sgt. Ward.

Police say this operation focused on rescuing young sex workers--treating them as victims and offering them services to break them out of a cycle of abuse.
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