The youngest person taken into custody was 19 years of age and the oldest was 78.
For six days the Polk County Sheriff’s Office conducted a special operation with detectives in “Operation No Tricks, No Treats.”
Its intent was to identify, and help, victims of human trafficking with a focus on those forced into prostitution.
The main targets were “those who prey on the victims, as well as the deviant child predators who stalk children online,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference Oct. 28.
“We work hand-in-hand with organizations to get help for the victims of human trafficking; We identified three possible victims during this investigation.”
The sting used online advertisements to arrange meetings between undercover detectives and suspects, which took place at an undisclosed location in Polk County.
Some of those arrested were thinking they were going to meet, and have sex, with girls aged 13 and 14.
“My number one focus in life is to find those who want to hurt our children,” Judd said during the press conference.
He said Florida law treats all “solicitors of prostitution” as victims and authorities obtain assistance from various social services agencies.
Detectives worked closely with non-profit children’s advocate groups for assistance and support.
Thirty-eight people were arrested for offering to “turn a trick” (commit prostitution), but were treated to a second-degree misdemeanor charge.
Four of those have prior arrests for prostitution, two were possible adult victims of human trafficking and a third juvenile victim was not taken into custody.
The officers arrested 62 for soliciting a prostitute, a first-degree misdemeanor, and five of those had been previously arrested for the same behavior.
During the arrests, detectives seized cocaine heroin, methamphetamine, MDMA (Ecstasy) and marijuana.
Three people were in the country illegally, two were victims of possible trafficking.
Those who were in the “wrong place at the wrong time” included 11 who admitted they were married, four were from other states, but 55 lived in Polk County.
At the end of the investigation, there were a total of 29 felonies and 143 misdemeanor charges filed. Most of those arrested have prior criminal records for similar crimes.
A total of five other law enforcement and social service agencies assisted in the investigation.