PHOENIX – Law enforcement authorities have arrested 16 suspects in Arizona who are accused of child sex crimes related to human trafficking, according to reports.
The Phoenix Police Department coordinated “Operation Tangled Web” with the assistance of the Tempe Police Department, Mesa Police Department, FBI, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security. The undercover operation specifically targeted the “demand for child sex crimes and human trafficking.”
During the investigative work, detectives posted advertisements on websites that are “commonly sought out by suspects seeking illegal sex acts,” the department said, FOX 10 Phoenix reported.
“The suspects allegedly solicited and/or brokered deals for various sex acts and were subsequently arrested,” police said.
To solidify cases against deviants, detectives posed as minors online for weeks and engaged in conversations with the suspects.
“Typically during the end of the conversation, they might want to meet up somewhere and go through with what was already suggested or solicited,” Phoenix Police Sgt. Melissa Soliz noted.
“The Phoenix Police Department routinely conducts operations of this type with our local, state and federal partners in a continuous effort to reduce the demand that fuels child sex trafficking and the exploitation of children in our community,” the agency said.
According to investigators, each suspect who was arrested solicited various sex acts from individuals perceived to be minors.
Investigations of this nature are frequently conducted, showing that there are ample cases in which individuals solicit sex from minors, FOX reported.
“There’s never enough times to do this. These people need to be taken off the streets, and unfortunately, it’s incidents like this or operations like this that help us catch them before they’re able to victimize a child,” the sergeant said.
According to Soliz, criminals involved in these crimes often go unsuspected by the people in their lives.
“We don’t know who these people are because they have regular working jobs, white collar, blue-collar jobs, and in order to catch them, we need them to commit the act,” she said.