Au­thor­i­ties ar­rest 44 in in­ves­ti­ga­tion of pros­ti­tu­tion ring

Con­sta­ble: Crime drives de­mand for hu­man traf­fick­ing

Houston Chronicle - - CITY | STATE - By Robert Dow­nen robert.dow­

An op­er­a­tion by un­der­cover po­lice ended with 44 peo­ple be­ing charged in con­nec­tion with a streetlevel pros­ti­tu­tion ring in north Har­ris County.

The two-week op­er­a­tion brings the num­ber of pros­ti­tu­tion-re­lated ar­rests in the county to nearly 300 since mid-Au­gust, a num­ber that law en­force­ment of­fi­cials have said is due to a new fo­cus to stymie de­mand for pros­ti­tu­tion in the re­gion.

Precinct 4 Con­sta­ble Mark Her­man her­alded his of­fice’s work to de­ter crimes that he said are of­ten con­nected to pros­ti­tu­tion.

“Street-level pros­ti­tu­tion is the driv­ing force be­hind much of the de­mand for hu­man traf­fick­ing,” Her­man said at a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day. “This op­er­a­tion we feel may have rescued po­ten­tial vic­tims from the streets and pre­vented other crimes in Precinct 4.”

The op­er­a­tion be­gan af­ter po­lice said they re­ceived nu­mer­ous com­plaints from res­i­dents and busi­ness own­ers in the area of FM 1960 and In­ter­state 45.

Four of the 44 peo­ple ar­rested claimed they were vic­tims of hu­man traf­fick­ing, and five were iden­ti­fied as pimps. One of the al­leged pimps had a 2-year-old child and a stolen hand­gun in his car while he de­liv­ered a pros­ti­tute, po­lice said.

The ar­rests fol­low mul­ti­ple other crack­downs by po­lice in Hous­ton and Har­ris County this sum­mer.

In mid-Au­gust, more than 250 peo­ple were ar­rested in a mas­sive, week­s­long sting as part of the na­tional, an­nual “Na­tional Johns Sup­pres­sion Ini­tia­tive” that this year in­cluded 37 law en­force­ment agen­cies in 17 states.

An­other 138 were ar­rested in a sim­i­lar sting last year.

While Her­man could not say defini­tively Thurs­day if pros­ti­tu­tion crimes were up or down in re­cent years, he noted that the de­part­ment and other agen­cies have changed their ap­proach to han­dling pros­ti­tu­tion, opt­ing to try to stymie smaller, streetlevel rings that can of­ten in­clude women forced into the trade.

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