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AZ Central: 86 men arrested in Phoenix police sex-trafficking bust

86 men arrested in Phoenix police sex-trafficking bust

Eighty-six men were arrested over 10 days last month in a Phoenix police vice operation that targeted sex trafficking, officials said. Undercover Phoenix police detectives opened a massage parlor and arrested customers who attempted to solicit sexual acts, the department said. The first arrest was made on Dec. 4, and the last was made on Dec. 15. The ages of those arrested ranged from 22 to 78 years old. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, Phoenix City Councilman Jim Waring and Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams were among those who spoke Thursday about the operation. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. “We’re here to talk about the successful police work done,” Stanton said. Waring leads the Human Trafficking Task Force on the Phoenix City Council. The task force was created four years ago, prior to the Super Bowl being played in Glendale, as a way to address potential increases in sex-trafficking and prostitution in the area, Stanton said. Waring insisted the task force continue, Stanton noted. “(Sex trafficking) is a disgusting, abhorrent practice,” Waring said. “The stories we hear are appalling.” Waring said he is surprised not every city has a vice squad. In recent years, activists have successfully redefined prostitution, which had been treated by police as a nuisance, as domestic sex trafficking, an epidemic worthy of government attention. Groups have provided training to police that teaches them to see the women as victims of predatory men. Most of the women, in the activists’ thinking, are coerced into the sex trade, either actively or through circumstances. Police departments in Arizona had conducted sting operations using escort ads on websites such as Craigslist and Backpage. Officials said last month’s operation in Phoenix was mirrored on efforts in other cities and counties. “Every arrest counts. Every victim we free from coercion counts,” Williams said. Phoenix police Lt. Brian Freudenthal, who works with the vice squad, said the operation was designed to catch those who create a demand for sex trafficking. “This is not a victimless crime,” he said. “It affects everyone from the victims to legitimate massage parlors.” He noted that if anyone suspects a business of participating in human trafficking, they can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

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