37 Arrested In Human Trafficking Operation In Spring

Operation Independence began on July 29 and ended on August 3. Six of the people arrested are charged with promotion of prostitution.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez (center) discusses the arrests made during Operation Independence, which targeted human trafficking victims and traffickers in the north suburb of Spring.

Thirty-seven people were arrested in a recent multi-agency human trafficking operation led by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in the suburb of Spring, north of Houston.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Thursday at a news conference that the so-called “Operation Independence” began July 29 and ended August 3.

He said that undercover officers contacted human trafficking victims and their traffickers and arranged to meet in person to exchange money for sex.

“When the human trafficking victims showed up for their meetings, they were detained and taken to a Spring Fire Department station where a team of social service providers were waiting to offer them help,” Gonzalez told reporters.

Of the 37 people arrested, 32 are women and five are men. They also include six alleged human traffickers who’ve been charged with promotion of prostitution.

Forced into prostitution

The sheriff said that one third of the women said they had been forced into prostitution.

“We strongly believe that the others are also likely victims of abuse,” Gonzalez said, adding the victims underwent full medical and sexual assault exams.

Houston Police Sgt. John Wall said victims of human trafficking often feel trapped because traffickers “make promises aimed at addressing the needs of the victims simply to impose control.”

Wall said the victims usually fear leaving the traffickers because of “psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment or physical threats either to themselves or to their family members.”

Other law enforcement agencies involved in the operation include the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the FBI, as well as social service providers like the Texas Department of Family Protective Services and YMCA International.

People who have information about human trafficking can report it by calling the national hotline at 1-888-373-7888.



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