In Tallahassee, Florida, this week, police concluded a two-year child trafficking investigation that resulted in the arrest of more than 170 people in the past few months.
On Tuesday, TPD Chief Lawrence Revell and other officials announced the results of Operation Stolen Innocence, a highly secretive investigation into the commercial sex trafficking of a young girl, who was 13 and 14 when the abuse occurred. In that case, it was discovered that the girl’s mother forced her to have sex with men in exchange for money and drugs.
Chief Revell said the girl is “on the road to recovery, and she’s doing well given the situation.”
The investigation looked into many other cases as well.
The arrests have been taking place for months but police did not disclose this information publicly until this week to avoid tipping off suspects. Revell said that this was likely the largest operation of its kind in Tallahassee’s history.
106 people were charged with felonies, including human trafficking, lewd and lascivious battery on a child under 16, and production and possession of child pornography. Another 72 people were charged with misdemeanors, including solicitation of prostitution. The misdemeanor arrests likely involved adult sex workers who were acting on their own accord and their clients, which should be counted separately in the official tally, but for some reason, these cases are lumped together.
Some prominent local figures were arrested in the bust, including a former write-in candidate for local office, a P.E. teacher, and a former chairman of the Seminole Boosters, Inc., a fundraising arm for Florida State University athletics.
“The arrests in this operation are the culmination of the diligent work from our dedicated investigators, who have worked tirelessly to bring justice to the victims in this case. I cannot say enough about the work that you all did and how proud I am of each of you,” Revell said.
Numerous agencies worked with local police in the investigation, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the State Attorney’s Office, and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office.
This is just one of many similar operations that have taken place across the state, and the entire country in recent years.
Over the past five years, the US Marshal Service (USMS) has recovered missing children in 75% of the cases it has received. And of those recovered, 72% were recovered within 7 days. Since 2005, the USMS has recovered more than 2,000 missing children.
Last month, a massive law enforcement operation in Ohio called Operation Autumn Hope has resulted in the arrest of 179 people under suspicion of human trafficking, and the rescue of 109 victims, 45 of whom were missing children. Some victims were as young as 14 or 15 years old. The victims were referred to social services, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Investigators urged victims and people who are aware of victims to speak out. Victims and witnesses can report information to the Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1-888-373-7888.
The full press conference can be viewed below: