More than 400 arrests in Houston-area sex trafficking sting

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Authorities held a press conference Monday to announce more than 400 arrests as a result of a months' long sting operation dubbed 'Operation Traveling Circus.'

The operation was designed to identify victims of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, arrest the consumer base of 'johns' and weed out traffickers who capitalize on the sex industry in the Houston area.

The Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff's Office, Harris County District Attorney's Office and the Houston Chapter of the YMCA addressed the recent joint operation that started January 4 and went until February 26.

MUG SHOTS: See photos of the 'johns' arrested

"We want to word to get out to the johns and the pimps that it is not a free for all. There is a risk. You go solicit a woman, you might very well be soliciting an undercover officer," said Dan Harris, HPD's Vice Division Captain.

A so-called 'Wall of Johns' was displayed at the press conference.

The photos were part of an announced policy shift. Authorities said they will not be posting mugshots of those arrested for prostitution because they believe many of them are victims.

"Prostitution is a crime, but it is not victimless. Many are caught in prostitution, known on the streets as 'the game,' where their bodies are treated as cash cows by their pimps," explained Assistant DA Anne Johnson.

"They're generally women that have some sort of child abuse in their lives that makes them vulnerable," said Assistant DA Courtney Chester. "They come from all different walks of life."

Instead, authorities say they will focus on the 'johns,' those who are funding prostitution, in our area, particularly with some major sports events headed into the Houston area over the next year.

Authorities say they do see an increase in prostitution-related crimes during major sporting events, so they're trying to combat those efforts ahead of the events.
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