Agents Posing Online as Underage Prostitutes Net 18 Arrests in Tennessee

August 7, 2016 Updated: October 5, 2018

Undercover agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) posted ads online posing as prostitutes, some underage. Within three days they received 485 responses. Of those, 18 men paid to have sex with an underage female.

The bureau followed with 41 arrests or citations, most for patronizing prostitution. One man was arrested for soliciting a minor and drug possession.

Among the arrested were six women charged with prostitution. The women, aged 21–27, were potentially victims of human trafficking. A local nonprofit, End Slavery Tennessee, offered them services including housing, counseling, and addiction treatment. One woman accepted and was placed in a safe house.

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” says TBI Director Mark Gwyn in the release. “This is all demand-driven. These men paying for sex with children in our state are only continuing to victimize girls and women. It’s wrong, it’s illegal, and we will pursue these operations in small towns and big cities for as long as it takes.”

TBI arrested or cited 143 people as part of its anti-human trafficking “Operation Someone Like Me” that started in May 2015.

Over 5,500 people were potentially trafficked in the United States last year, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a non-profit providing a hotline for human trafficking victims and other services.

Almost 80 percent of the victims were trafficked for sex. Of those, one-third were underage—almost 1,400.

The statistics may be incomplete, as not all cases are likely reported to the resource center.

For example, an especially endangered group is child runaways. Close to 2,400 of them were likely victims of sex trafficking in 2015, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Those numbers only account for the cases reported to the federally funded non-profit.

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