TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Tallahassee Police Department announced 178 arrests in a “large-scale” human trafficking investigation Tuesday morning.
TPD Chief Lawrence Revell says in his 30 years in Tallahassee, he hasn’t seen a case of this magnitude in the city.
TPD says 106 of the suspects were charged with felonies, including production of child porn, human sex trafficking of a minor, online solicitation of prostitution and more charges connected to the human trafficking of children.
Of the 178 arrests, 72 suspects were charged with misdemeanors, specifically solicitation of prostitution. Chief Revell says human trafficking can’t happen without the buyers.
Speakers at the press conference say human trafficking is a $150 billion global industry fueled by demand. Law enforcement refers to solicitors as “Johns” and they were one of the targets of the investigation. TPD says all the suspects are from the southeast region, with some coming from as far as Mississippi and Alabama.
Additionally, Chief Revell says the Johns came from a variety of ages, races and economic backgrounds.
TPD calls this investigation “Operation Stolen Innocence.”
TPD says the collaboration with other law enforcement agencies was crucial in this investigation.
“We know it’s going on in our community,” Chief Revell says. “We need to address this and we know it takes state and federal partners.”
Representatives from the following organizations also attended the press conference:
- State Attorney’s Office
- United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida
- Second Judicial Circuit
- Homeland Security
- United States Marshal Service
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement
- Leon County Sheriff’s Office
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 1,887 victims, 427 traffickers and 243 trafficking businesses were identified in Florida alone in 2019.