MUG SHOTS: More than 100 arrested in Harris County prostitution sting operation

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The Harris County Sheriff’s Office led the nation with more than 100 arrests during a month-long sting operation targeting sex buyers.

More than 30 U.S. law enforcement agencies participated in the 15th National Johns Suppression Initiative coordinated by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois.

These agencies combined to make at least 638 arrests, including 103 by members of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit.

The operation ran from Jan. 7 through Feb. 4. The operation is intended draw attention to the exploitive nature of the sex trafficking industry and reduce the demand for purchased sex.

“Men who are out seeking to buy sex should know they are contributing to criminal human trafficking networks that victimize some of our community’s most vulnerable residents,” said Harris County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Edison Toquica. “I want to commend our Sheriff’s Office Vice U nit for putting in the hard work to protect human trafficking victims by putting their customers in jail.”

The Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit has shifted its focus away from arresting human trafficking victims and toward the Johns who take advantage of them. In 2014, the Sheriff’s Office arrested 146 illegal sex buyers. In 2017, that number nearly tripled to 433.

Solicitation of prostitution is a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit conducted the sting operation with the generous cooperation of nine hotel operators. Some of the significant arrests included:

• A man who was arrested by the Vice Unit weeks before the operation. The man repeatedly called and texted an undercover deputy in an attempt to impede the sting operation. The District Attorney’s Office accepted a charge of interfering with the duties of a public servant.

• A man who brought one gram of cocaine to meet with the undercover deputy. The man offered the cocaine to the undercover deputy, then snorted the cocaine himself before he could be detained;

• A man in possession of 4 grams of methamphetamine;

• A man in possession of 3 grams of methamphetamine and 3 grams of marijuana;

• A man in possession of 7 grams of methamphetamine;

• A man in possession of 18 grams of ecstasy, 1 gram of cocaine and 2 grams of marijuana.