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HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — More than 250 sex buyers and traffickers were arrested on prostitution charges during recent month-long sting operations conducted by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Police Department.

Combined, the HCSO and HPD accounted for one-quarter of the 1,000-plus arrests made by a national coalition of law enforcement agencies called the National Johns Suppression Initiative. The operation ran from June 28 through July 31 and included 37 law enforcement agencies in 17 states.

Working in coordination with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, HCSO deputies arrested 161 sex buyers, while HPD officers arrested 88 sex buyers and 9 sex traffickers.

The annual operation is coordinated by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois, and it is intended to draw attention to the exploitive nature of the sex trafficking industry and reduce the demand for purchased sex.

“Our aim is for Harris County and Houston to shed the dubious distinction as America’s sex trafficking capital.” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. “By focusing our efforts on sex buyers who are seeking to take advantage of sex trafficking victims, we are putting these predators on notice that our community won’t tolerate their behavior.”

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 cooperation of eight different hotel operators. Some of the significant arrests included:

• A man in possession of 60 grams of Hydrocodone and $4,360 cash, which was submitted for possible seizure
• A man who was previously arrested for prostitution by the Vice Unit in January
• A convicted sex offender;
• A man in possession of $6,722, which was submitted for possible seizure
• Two suspects with handguns in their vehicles.

“I want to commend the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit for their tireless work to make our community safer for our most vulnerable residents,” Gonzalez said. “We will continue to vigorously pursue sex buyers so that they never feel comfortable paying for sex in Harris County.”