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Tulsa police sting operation to fight sex trafficking

2 News out with Tulsa police
Posted at 2:00 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 23:27:55-04

TULSA, Okla. — Since March 2019, the Human Trafficking/Vice unit of the Tulsa Police Department made 59 human trafficking-related arrests, including 29 federal indictments. That's compared to zero arrests in 2018.

2 News Oklahoma spent an evening with TPD’s Human Trafficking/Vice unit to get an exclusive look at what they did in one night.

For this operation, they are using multiple, female, undercover officers posing as sex workers. Their goal is to make as many arrests as possible for people soliciting for or engaging in sex work.

“It’s demand. It’s simply economics for these folks. You know because you have supply and demand. The demand side of these folks who are paying for these women to have sexual acts with them, and the majority, if not all of them, not at their will,” said Lt. Brian Wilson, the commander in charge.

This sting happened at a hotel on Admiral which police said is a hot spot for sex trafficking.

“It’s happening at lunch; it’s happening after work hours and it’s happening into the night,” said Wilson.

The undercover office walks slowly up and down the street, it's not long before a potential customer pulls up.

"People that begin to pay for sex with women eventually gravitate towards wanting younger and younger girls,” said Wilson.

After the buyer offers money for a sex act, she tells him she has a room and to pull into the parking lot. Once inside, he lays money on the table and he is quickly arrested by two other officers. The man is taken to another part of the hotel to be questioned and searched by other undercover officers.

The undercover officer goes back outside and the operation begins again.

“I think at one point in the span of an hour, we had 15 that solicited our officers. It’s pretty shocking,” said Wilson.

Some of them drove up, while others made a "date" online to meet her. Once investigators made an arrest and completed the paperwork, the men were loaded into a van and taken to jail.

"This evening we arrested 7 individuals in about 4 hours of working the operation. I think our officers encountered 25-40 individuals looking to pay for a sexual act,” said Wilson.

During this sting, investigators arrested 6 people for soliciting prostitution. Because these men are still ongoing in the court process, 2 News Oklahoma is not naming them or showing their faces. These are arrests and not convictions.

Tulsa police said this operation targeted the buyers of sex acts to try and put a dent in sex trafficking.

"We have seen an uptick the last 2 years. The number of the victims rescued and the numbers of victims that we have identified have just gone through the roof,” said Wilson.

WATCH 2 News' Sharon Phillips' full story Wednesday on 2 News at 10 p.m.

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