Small Town Shocked by Mass Arrests in Child Trafficking Sting Operation

July 28, 2017 Updated: October 5, 2018

Authorities have arrested 37 in an anti-human trafficking operation conducted by federal, state, and local law enforcement in Midland, Texas. The majority were charged for trying to engage in sexual acts with a child under 14 or a prostitute under 18.

“Operation Damascus” lasted from July 11 to July 25 and was jointly conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety, FBI, Homeland Security Department, Midland Police, and the Midland County District Attorney’s Office.

The arrestees ranged from 19 to 63 years old. No problems were reported during the arrests, Midland Police spokeswoman Rachel Walker told The Epoch Times.

The number of arrests came as a surprise to small town Midland, said Laura Nodolf, Midland County District Attorney.

“Any time that you have a situation where you think about children being hurt, people don’t want to think about that,” she said. “For this to come to light that in our community … we are able to arrest, have 37 offenses in that time period has been very much a shock to our community.”

The Texas Department of Public Safety announcement of the results of an anti-human trafficking operation. (Midland Police Department)
The Texas Department of Public Safety announces the results of an anti-human trafficking operation in Midland, Tx., on July 28, 2017. (Midland Police Department)

Nine suspects were arrested for online solicitation of a minor. They had arranged online a meeting with a person they believed was a 13-year-old girl and then went to the agreed place expecting sexual acts from the girl.

Another 18 were arrested for prostitution solicitation of a person under 18. They made contact with someone online that they believed was a prostitute under 18 and then went to a designated location to meet.

Seven were arrested for “sexual performance of a minor” and/or distribution of harmful material to a minor. They sent compromising pictures to a person they believed was a minor and/or requested such pictures from a person they believed to be a minor.

Two females were arrested for prostitution and one female for promotion of prostitution.

The agents scoured the dark web (web pages only accessible using specialized tools) as well as normally accessible pages to put up ads to lure child predators.

The county conducts similar operations several times a year, but this was a first one of this length, Nodolf said. “It takes an intense amount of manpower to accomplish.”

Midland is a small, but fast-growing city some 340 miles west of Dallas. It has about 135,000 residents and crime rates slightly below national average.

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