The San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force announced Tuesday the arrest of 29 men in a three-day prostitution sting last week.
The task force’s fourth annual Operation Reclaim and Rebuild targeted both buyers and captors, and attempted to rescue victims of sexual slavery and human trafficking.
“This operation is a wake up call for men who buy sex, about the damage they are doing to our young women and children, and the cycle of abuse they are promoting,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said.
“The men who were arrested are from all ages and backgrounds, demonstrating the need to raise awareness that when people pay for sex, the person on the other end of the transaction is often a victim who was forced into sex trafficking as a child,” she added.
As part of the sting, officers posted fake ads online offering sex for money. When the men showed up at a hotel for sex, they were instead surprised by being handcuffed.
Their cars were towed and their phones were taken as evidence. One man had a dog waiting in his car, officials said, while another arrived on a bicycle dressed in cycling gear with a backpack full of sexual props, and another was a sex abuse counselor at a local hospital, who showed up wearing scrubs.
“Buyers convince themselves they are involved in a hobby where there are no victims,” Stephan said. “The anonymity of the Internet emboldens Johns to ask for and expect the most extreme acts. They are often more violent than the pimps and traffickers themselves.”
“Johns treat sex trafficking victims as less than human and they believe that there will be no one to hold them accountable for their actions,” she said.
The operation involved the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, FBI, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, California Highway Patrol and other agencies.
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