HOUSTON (KIAH) — Dozens of people accused of human trafficking in Fort Bend County are now off the streets.

The Fort Bend County District Attorney`s Office worked with the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance and partnering agencies to conduct three multi-day proactive operations in October and November of 2021 and January of 2022. In total, the operations resulted in 41 arrests of sex buyers and traffickers with seven victims recovered, included one juvenile victim.

The two 2021 operations aimed to combat human trafficking in Fort Bend County by identifying and arresting those intending to buy sex. Commonly known as “johns”, they create the demand for human trafficking and contribute to the pervasive problem the community faces from these crimes.

“These operations are designed to reduce the demand for prostitution, thereby reducing the number of victims of human trafficking,” said Chief of the Special Crimes Division, Mark Hanna. “Solicitation of prostitution used to be a misdemeanor offense; however, a new law that began in September of 2021 makes this offense a felony. This change in the law shows how the State of Texas is taking steps to remove the scourge of human trafficking from our communities.”

The January 2022 operation focused on individuals engaged in human trafficking and identifying human trafficking victims. During the operation, undercover officers contacted individuals offering sexual services on the internet. Meetings were arranged with the goal of identifying the potential victim and their trafficker, often referred to as a “pimp”. As a result of the undercover operation, five pimps were arrested and seven victims identified. The identified victims were offered assistance by the Forensic Center of Excellence and YMCA International, to include forensic medical exams and treatment, counseling services and housing.

Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton congratulated the team on the results and further stressed the importance of being proactive, “Our law enforcement officers and partnering agencies taking part in these operations made a significant impact in the sex-trafficking trade right here in Fort Bend County. 41 arrests are significant enough, but to rescue seven trafficking victims is remarkable and is exactly why we do what we do.”

“The success of these operations show that we have more work to do if we are to eradicate trafficking from Fort Bend County,” continued Middleton. “As I have said repeatedly, we will be relentless in our pursuit of those responsible for human trafficking, including those who create the demand for trafficking victims in this county.”

Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) Mary Magness, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston sees this a big success for everyone who worked together to make this happen and saved a number of people. “This operation is a prime example of the equal importance that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston and our law enforcement partners in Fort Bend County place on the identification and stabilization of trafficking victims, as we do on the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for human trafficking.

Sex traffickers often subject their victims to physical and sexual abuse, threats of harm and psychological manipulation in order to force them to engage in commercial sex acts. It is critical to identify victims and help them receive the trauma-informed victim support services that they need to recover, while at the same time bringing those responsible to justice.”

District Attorney Middleton also extended his thanks to the agencies that collaborated in these operations with the Fort Bend County District Attorneys Office, noting that they were essential to the success of the operation. The partner agencies included the Missouri City Police Department, Fort Bend County Sheriffs Office, Sugar Land Police Department, Houston Police Department, Department of Public Safety, Harris County Sheriffs Office, Montgomery County Sheriffs Office, Rosenberg Police Department, Waller County Sheriff`s Office, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston.