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178 people in Tallahassee area arrested in 'large-scale' child trafficking investigation

178 people in Tallahassee area arrested in 'large-scale' child trafficking investigation
Posted at 2:17 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 15:17:41-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Tallahassee Police Department announced Tuesday the outcome of a "large-scale" human trafficking investigation that resulted in 178 people being arrested.

The department recently concluded a two-year-long operation, called "Operation Stolen Innocence," involving human trafficking and child sex trafficking right within the Capital City community.

TPD Chief Revell said that it started with an investigation after a 13-year-old child’s image was seen on a prostitution website. Investigators with TPD’s Special Victims Unit set up an operation to rescue the child to ensure her safety.

The investigation began in November 2018. Since then, 106 people have been charged with felonies and 72 with misdemeanors. Nineteen people also face federal charges, according to Revell.

Charges range from solicitation of prostitution to human trafficking of a minor. Police said all suspects are from the southeast region, spanning all the way to Mississippi and Alabama.

Revell said that he's "never been a case of this magnitude" in the 30 years he's been in Tallahassee. One of the investigators who was praised for her work on the case called the initial case that leads to dozens of arrests "horrific."

"We know it's going on in our community. We need to address this and we know it takes state and federal partners," Revell said.

TPD did not release any specifics on individual cases to prevent from identifying any of the victims.

Now, police are asking other victims to come forward. They said some of the most common ways to recognize a potential human trafficking victim are:

  • The person appears malnourished.
  • They show signs of physical injuries or abuse.
  • They avoid eye contact, social interaction, and law enforcement.
  • They do not have official identification or personal possessions.
  • They are never away from people.

If you see something, say something and call TPD at 850-891-4200. You can also remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 850-891-TIPS.

Revell, other representatives from the agency, as well as representatives from the United States Attorney’s Office Northern District of Florida, State Attorney’s Office for the Second Judicial Circuit, Homeland Security, United States Marshal Service, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, were in attendance for the announcement Tuesday morning.

WTXL was at the event and streamed it live on Facebook. You can watch the full announcement below:

This story was first reported by WTXL Staff in Tallahassee, Florida.