A sting operation conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation concluded with the arrests of 41 people involved with human trafficking in Tennessee. Fourteen of those arrested were involved in human trafficking in Nashville. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn conducted a news conference, in which he stated that the problem goes much deeper than they knew.
“This week I learned that we are only scratching the surface. This is our most significant operation to date.”
— Deborah MTA (@tetra1956) August 7, 2016
The human trafficking sting operation was conducted by undercover agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, who posed as minor girls on the website Backpage.com. The ads that these undercover agents posted received thousands of hits. On the first day of this sting operation, the ads received almost 300 hits in just seven hours. Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Margie Quin, commented further on the sting operation.
“Even with as many of these operations that we have conducted across the state, it’s still shocking that half of the men responding to these ads wanted to pay to have sex with a minor. We’re working toward helping victims of trafficking and taking these predators off the streets.”
— Trey Martin 213 (@treythetruth213) August 7, 2016
The amount of people that were arrested in the latest human trafficking sting operation in Tennessee forced the state’s House Speaker, Beth Harwell, to make a statement.
“I had the chance to see the operation from the inside on Wednesday. While I was there I saw a man get arrested for wanting to have sex with an underage woman. To those scouring the web or apps in the search for sex with our state’s children, let me say this: Be warned.”
Even though Harwell’s message is strong, this is not the first major human trafficking sting operation conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Earlier this year, in May, the TBI conducted a similar operation in which 32 people, men and women, were arrested on charges of prostitution and human trafficking. One of the people arrested in this operation, “Operation Someone Like Me,” was a children’s minister. Director Mark Gwyn commented on this operation, the fifth of its kind in Tennessee.
“Finding these people who are trying to buy Tennessee children is a priority for us. We want anyone responding to these ads to think there may be a TBI Agent on the other end of it. We will do whatever we can to make a difference in reducing the human trafficking that takes place in Tennessee.”
The TBI was not alone in this particular operation. With the help of the Knoxville Police Department, Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking, End Slavery Tennessee, and Second Life Chattanooga they were able to get these 32 people off of the streets of Tennessee. After the arrests were made, Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch made comments.
“Human trafficking is a scourge on society. We will continue to commit all the necessary resources and work alongside our law enforcement partners to help protect our most precious resource, our children.”
The women that were deemed to be part of the human trafficking ring were approached by many non-profit groups, offering them assistance in getting their lives back together. Some of the assistance offered included housing, addiction treatment, and mental health counseling. Three women took them up on their offers. A list of every person arrested in this specific operation can be found here.
Tennessee is not the only state that has problems with human trafficking and people searching for minors to engage in sexual activity. Law enforcement agencies across the country are doing the best that they can to end human trafficking in the United States.
Do you think what they are doing in Tennessee will make a dent in the crime of human trafficking?
[Photo by AP Photo/Elaine Thompson]