Sex trafficking sting nets dozens of arrests around county

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SAN DIEGO — Authorities netted more than 140 arrests in a four-day sting throughout San Diego County targeting sex traffickers and would-be customers for prostitution.

The sheriff’s department and police from Chula Vista, Escondido and San Diego were all involved in “Operation Century Week,” which ran from April 5 to 8 in partnership with the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force, a group that includes the state Department of Justice, FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

Police say 144 men were arrested on suspicion of trying to hire a prostitute. Video from the stings shows undercover officers confronting suspects in hotel rooms. Authorities also said they targeted people searching for options on social media pages for the region.

They say high-profile stings targeting the customers of sex traffickers help disrupt a vicious cycle that feeds the black market, even if they don’t directly lead to the arrest of criminals higher up the chain.

“Sex buyers drive the demand for human trafficking, which results in an increase of offenders and victims,” the task force said in a news release.

“They contribute to the negative consequences that victims of human trafficking have to endure,” Geanie Franco, a SDHTTF commander, said of customers for the illicit sex trade. “They think there’s no harm in it. They don’t really understand what could be behind that solicitation online.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, officials said to call the confidential National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888, or to text 233733. You can also visit their website for more resources.

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