Officials say a recent undercover operation in Bradley County, Tenn., resulted in 23 prostitution-related arrests, five confiscated vehicles, $3,000 in cash, 34 grams of drugs and another 80 medication pills.
Going undercover on several websites as part of "Operation Temptation," deputies encountered several suspects in December and earlier this month who offered to exchange drugs for sexual favors, Sheriff Eric Watson said during a news conference Wednesday.
It's all part of area law enforcement's effort to curtail human trafficking-related incidents, and "one of the most successful sting operations in Bradley County in many years," Watson added.
Beginning in December, deputies made nine arrests for prostitution charges. One of them involved a couple in possession of numerous illegal drugs and a stolen vehicle from New Jersey, Watson said. Another sting focused on a pimp who deputies spotted driving a woman to a motel room.
Deputies netted another 13 arrests earlier this month, Watson said, and are sending the cases to 10th District Attorney General Steve Crump, whose jurisdiction covers four counties, including Bradley.
"Unfortunately, this crime is not the crime that has been glamorized in so many television shows and movies," Crump said Wednesday. "This is crime where children at a young age are forced to sacrifice themselves and their innocence. Someone who's been charged with this has probably been doing it since 13 or 14 years old. And it was done because they were forced or threatened."
Crump said some of the confiscated materials, like the cash, will be used as evidence in upcoming prosecutions. As for the drugs, they will be destroyed. Crump's office also plans to file any vehicle stolen as a "seized asset" and deliver them back to law enforcement, he said.
As he and Watson both reiterated, sex crimes can lead to homicide. And as trafficking becomes more digitally based, law enforcement must adapt and change the way it investigates.
"The days of the corner streetwalker are over," Crump said. "It's all internet, cellphone, electronic. So law enforcement has changed how it deals with that as well."