The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office announced the arrests of 71 people on Monday, after a month-long sting operation named "Operation Interception."
The operation was launched to "combat human trafficking leading up to the Super Bowl coming to Tampa in February 2021" and scare away Johns soliciting victims of human trafficking.
"With less than a month until the big game, our covert operations continue, seeking those who choose to sexually exploit others here in our community," said Sheriff Chad Chronister. "Our goal, as the operation name explains, is to 'intercept' individuals involved in sexual exploitation before they are able to take advantage of vulnerable individuals, and ultimately, to deter others."
Authorities acknowledged that prostitution tends to spike during the Super Bowl and stated that "Operation Interception" was a way for them to get a head start on potential crimes.
"Like any major sporting event, the Super Bowl should not be a venue where these types of crimes occur on the sidelines, whether it's before, during, or after the game," Chronister added. "We know from past experiences with major sporting events that there will be some who travel for the exclusive purpose of taking advantage of women and children. I want to make it very clear, if you are planning to engage in the sexual exploitation of others, I'm urging you to think twice. We will find you, and you will be arrested."
From Dec. 7, 2020 to Jan. 9, 2021, detectives placed online ads offering sex for money in addition to undercover female detectives disguising themselves as prostitutes.
Those arrested ranged in age from 20 to 62 and were charged with soliciting another to commit prostitution/remaining in a place for prostitution. Eight of those arrested received human trafficking charges last year while another six were arrested for the same charges in 2019. Some individuals received additional charges, including drug possession.
For a closer look at the alleged suspects, take a look above.
Source: Breaking 911