Undercover sex trafficking operation makes nearly dozen arrests
Tammy Mutasa, KOMO
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PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — An undercover operation in Washington State to battle sex trafficking made nearly a dozen arrests and discovered in a mere four hours seven women who were victims of prostitution and three who were victims of human trafficking.
The Washington State Patrol and Lakewood police launched “Operation Human Freight” on Wednesday night in northern Pierce County near Interstate 5.
The investigation began after several complaints came in about prostitution near Pierce County truck stops, the State Patrol said.
The arrests occurred at a truck stop in northern Pierce County, the State Patrol said.
Undercover officers made contact with prostitutes through the internet and in person.
Investigators said the prostitution problem was so rampant, it didn’t take long for undercover detectives to run out of manpower for, “Operation Human Freight.”
“Even with the resources we had and the motivation, we were just overwhelmed, inundated,” said Washington State Patrol’s Lt. James Mjor. “I haven’t met a survivor that wants to be in this business. I have not met one. And I’ve had numerous opportunities around the nation and listened to these heroic stories of survival. These women don’t want to be in that.”
Investigators said one of the victims had even been raped earlier in the night but continued working.
“It’s about ending the cycle of human trafficking,” says WSP Chief John R. Batiste. “This operation not only helps protect the victims of human trafficking but also safeguards our communities from criminal activity.”
The object of the operation was to rescue young girls caught up in prostitution and human trafficking, the State Patrol said.
Advocates from Kitsap County and the city of Seattle were there to help the victims, as was a survivor of prostitution, who also provided assistance.
The arrests were for such crimes as promoting prostitution, drug possession, felony escape and drug dealing.
The State Patrol said the operation was the first of its kind in the state. It involved a number of agencies, including Lakewood, Fife and Seattle police; the West Sound Narcotics Task Force; and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
This article was first published by fellow CNN affiliate KOMO. It is used here with permission.