The Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) announced on Tuesday the conclusion of a massive human trafficking investigation that resulted in more than 170 arrests.
“The department recently concluded a two-year long operation, called Operation Stolen Innocence, involving human trafficking and child sex trafficking right within the Capital City community,” WTXL reported.
Officials detailed the sequence of events in a press release on Tuesday:
The investigation began in November 2018 when TPD investigators saw images of a child were being posted on a website that advertises sex for money. Investigators with TPD’s Special Victims Unit set up an operation to rescue the child to ensure her safety. This was a pivotal point in the operation, called “Stolen Innocence.”
The investigation uncovered an enormous amount of electronic evidence that required months to evaluate. The electronic evidence helped investigators further develop the case and determine how many suspects were involved and to what extent. As a result, 72 suspects were charged with misdemeanors and notices to appear, 106 suspects were charged with felonies and 18 face federal charges.
“These crimes took place all over the city,” TPD Chief Lawrence Revell said during a press conference. “Never have we had a case of this magnitude.”
Each year, millions of people are trafficked worldwide, the release stated.
“The base of human trafficking are the buyers, those charged with misdemeanors for solicitation of prostitution. Without buyers, human trafficking would not exist in such large numbers,” it continued.
TPD investigator Elizabeth Bascom described the investigation, and said that she believes the recent arrests are only part of the bigger human trafficking problem in Florida.
“The sheer number, the all day, every day, all the time solicitation and sexual activity and talk about cash for money and clearly meeting. I had never seen something just that prolific,” Bascom noted.
“When you can go online and order a pizza and a girl at the same time and the girl shows up to your door before the pizza, our society is in trouble, okay? That’s where we are. It is unbelievably accessible,” she concluded.