Sex workers and punters from several works of life among 61 arrested in human trafficking sting in Texas
“The biggest thing curtailing their behavior is to have it publicized so people in their [punter’s] workplace and the community know what they’re doing” – Susan Peters, Executive director, UnBound
In a massive raid which capped a month-long undercover operation coordinated between the McLennan County Sherriff’s Office and the Homeland Security Investigation task force, the police in Waco, Texas on Friday arrested 61 people during their latest human trafficking sting operation. The list of suspects includes 11 alleged pimps on 89 charges related largely to prostitution and human trafficking.
This was just the latest in a series of successful stings conducted over the past year and a half by the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office . These sting operations, five in all, have resulted in the arrest of 203 people.
Those arrested in police raids have included school teachers, police officers, law students and sports coaches.
The authoritis in Waco are making it clear that they are not primarily after the women, rather they want to stop those trafficking and exploiting the sex workers. The Sherriff’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations have worked closely with UnBound to help bridge the trust between victims of sex-trafficking and law enforcement..
The lineup: Some of the 61 people arrested in Friday’s human trafficking sting
Referring to the victims, Susan Peters, the executive director of anti-human trafficking and victim advocate organization UnBound said:
“They’re being arrested. They’re scared,” “It takes time for them to understand that the police are not after you, they want your pimp.”
On his part Detective Joseph Scaramucci, the lead investigator in Friday’s sting operation said: “We target the pimps and the johns. Being able to imprison the people who are imprisoning [women] is what counts.”
“We’re not gonna have women come to us and report they are being trafficked. We need to find them and work the cases from there.” McLennan County lies at the heart of the Texas Triangle-a metropolitan area that connects 70% of the Texas population between the cities of Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio through a network of interstate highways. The concentration of cities along major interstate corridors has made the area a hotbed for human trafficking.
“The stings are a huge part of combating human trafficking because it’s a supply and demand business,” said Peters: “They’re hitting the supply by hitting the traffickers and hitting the demand by arresting the johns.”
Law enforcement recorgnized that the ongoing prostitution problem in the area called for a new solution.
“Once we saw the problem was so prevalent here it created a need to address it in a more aggressive fashion,” said Scaramucci
According to Peters, the solicitors of clandestine sex tend to be educated, married men. She supports punters having their mug shots published as a deterrent.
“The biggest thing curtailing their behavior is to have it publicized so people in their workplace and the community know what they’re doing,” Peters said.
Apparently the news of the tough operations environment taht is Waco has spread to people in the flesh peddling business actors the region.
“I asked a girl how she got here and she was so drugged up she said she didn’t even know she was in Waco,” Peters said. “The girl said to me ‘I wouldn’t have come here. Everybody knows they do stings here'”.