FRESNO Calif, (FOX26) — 21 people were busted as part of an operation focused on arresting sex traffickers as well as the sexual predators seeking to pay for sex with children.
Operation Stolen Hearts took place last through a partnership with the Fresno Police Department and Department of Homeland Security Investigations to conduct a multi-day operation to combat child sexual exploitation and trafficking in the Fresno area. Detectives also coordinated with Breaking the Chains, a local rescue group for victims of sex trafficking, to provide support services for victims of sex trafficking identified during the operation.
Undercover detectives used a variety of internet sites commonly used to facilitate sex trafficking to contact individuals seeking to arrange sex with a minor.
During the operation, arrests were made for multiple prostitution-related charges, including contacting a minor with intent to commit a sex offense, aiding prostitution, arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes and solicitation of acts of prostitution.
One of the men arrested for arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes was also found to be in possession of a firearm and cocaine. Another man suspected of pimping was contacted and found to be a felon in possession of a firearm.
In addition to state charges, detectives are collaborating with Federal prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for qualifying cases.
A total of eleven misdemeanors and ten felony arrests were made during the operation.
Most importantly, ten women and girls were rescued from the sex trafficking trade and offered services including shelter at Breaking the Chains. The Fresno Police Department and Department of Homeland Security Investigations are committed to eradicating human trafficking in the Fresno area.
The purpose of operations like Stolen Hearts is intended to discourage others from engaging in acts that perpetuate sexual exploitation of minors, but just as importantly, helping both juvenile and adult victims to exit re-occurring systems of exploitation.
If you believe anyone you know is a victim of sex trafficking or exploitation, please contact local law enforcement or Breaking the Chains directly at 888-858-2021 or at www.btcfresno.org for help.