The largest operation ever conducted of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office led to 277 arrests. Most were prostitutes and men soliciting prostitutes.
But the operation, dubbed “No Tricks, No Treats”, also netted five possible victims of human trafficking.
The operation started Tuesday, Oct. 10, and concluded Sunday, Oct. 15.
Undercover detectives responded to online advertisements of prostitution and also posed online as prostitutes.
Of the 209 arrested men who solicited prostitutes, the youngest was 16 and the oldest 64. Three of them were doctors—one of them a pediatrician—one was a Marine Corps colonel, and one was a police sergeant from the sheriff’s own office. A veteran of 17 years, the officer only solicited a prostitute over the phone and didn’t go to the appointment.
“He got putting one and one together or maybe he recognized the undercover female’s voice because the undercover female recognized his voice,” said Sheriff Grad Judd during a Tuesday press conference. “Our supervision went to the house and arrested him. He apologized for putting us in that position and immediately resigned from the sheriff’s office.”
About quarter of the men were married. One had only been married four days.
Of the 51 arrested for prostitution, 13 were males. The youngest was a man who turned 18 less than three months ago.
The possible victims of human trafficking were four women and one man aged 21-36. They were referred to a non-profit helping to rehabilitate victims of human trafficking.
“If we had put all the resources in this operation and I could have only told you that we identified five potential victims of human trafficking, it would have been a grand slam,” Judd said.
The other 17 arrests were based on pimping, drug possession, and other charges.
Two men were arrested for attempting to engage in sexual activity with a minor. The detectives posed as 14-year-olds online and the men were arrested after traveling to meet who they thought were children.
Judd said such sting operations are primarily to improve the quality of life in the community.
The 277 arrested had a combined prior history of 897 charges (371 felonies, 526 misdemeanors). “These folks aren’t little angels,” Judd said.
Engaging in sex trafficking thus means associating with such people.
“It is a dangerous proposition when you go to a motel room or walk up to a house or pick somebody up on a street corner,” Judd said. “You don’t know, first off, what kind of dangerous person you’re getting in a car with. What kind of mentally ill person you getting in a car with. You certainly don’t know what their medical condition is.”
Judd said hundreds of people refused to solicit prostitution from the undercover detectives once they learned they’d had to go to Polk County, which he said was a sign his sting operations are indeed pushing sex trafficking out, even though not everybody is getting the message.
“Is it working? Yes. But obviously, some people live under a rock,” he said.