43 people have been arrested for drugs, weapons, and child sex trafficking in Arizona during a massive, multi-agency law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sting called Operation Spring Fling.
According to a report from ICE, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) joined forces with the Scottsdale Police Department Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit (HEaT) and the police departments of Mesa, Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert, and Surprise. According to the report, these agencies worked in cohesion with the Arizona State University Police Department to locate the suspects.
The ICE report states:
“This was an undercover operation targeting the demand for commercial sex, sex buyers, and human trafficking, which led to 43 arrests for crimes including child sex trafficking, prostitution, drug charges, and misconduct involving weapons. The focus was on hotel prostitution and street prostitution enforcement. The suspects allegedly solicited and/or brokered deals for various sex acts and were subsequently arrested.”
The report’s human trafficking definition includes “U.S. citizens who are exploited into sex or labor through force, fraud, or coercion.”
The U.S. State Department previously shocking statistics in an official report revealing that, at any given time, an estimated 24.9 million people were in forced labor, of which 4.8 million were in forced sexual exploitation in 2016.
This staggering operation comes on the heels of law enforcement officers’ recovery of 70 missing children in West Texas, following a three-week sting known as Operation Lost Souls. The multi-agency operation resulted in the rescue of children ages 10 to 17 years old, who were also victims of sex trafficking and abuse.
The 43 individuals arrested due to the success of Operation Spring Fling in Arizona range from ages 19 to 57 years old.