Valley agencies take part in human trafficking sting where 339 were arrested

Vanessa Vasconcelos Image
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
339 people arrested in statewide human trafficking sting
339 people arrested in statewide human trafficking sting

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's a problem closer to home than we think.

"Many if not most of our victims are homegrown, born in the U.S. or California. They come from our backyard," said Lt. Daniel Stanley with the LA County Sheriff's Office.

In a three-day operation starting Jan. 24, 20 agencies teamed up to crack down on human trafficking.

"It's a way for us to help victims of human trafficking reclaim and rebuild their lives," Lt. Stanley said.

Valley Agencies including Tulare County, Fresno, and Merced Police took part.

RELATED: 20 people arrested in Merced Police human trafficking sting

"No longer is it primarily a drug issue, a homeless issue or a foster issue it's a problem for everyone no matter when you're at," said Debra Rush, founder, and CEO of Breaking the Chains.

Rush says nonprofits like her's work hand in hand with law enforcement to stop the cycle of human trafficking by providing trauma treatment services.

"They can intercept and provide victims with the critical services they need at that moment it can be something as simple as food and shelter," she said.

In Fresno alone, the Economic Opportunities Commission identified 104 human trafficking victims from the start of 2018 to date.

During the operation, Fresno Police arrested 18 people, but they found their most significant success in the three victims they were able to rescue.

In Tulare County, the human trafficking task force executed several sting operations in Visalia, Tulare, and Porterville boasting ten arrests -- five for prostitution and five for solicitation.

In the North Valley with Merced Police, a sting led to 20 arrests one of those paired with the rescue of an underage girl.

"We found evidence he was forcing her to participate. So basically pimping her out," said Sgt. Luis Solis.

Because their sting was so successful, officers continued it past the operation, making an additional four arrests. In fact, one arrest took place just six hours before an interview with Action News took place.