LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A multi-state crackdown on human trafficking resulted 102 arrests across 12 states, including 46 arrests in Kentucky.
The Kentucky State Police Human Trafficking Task Force said a total of 21 victims, including two minors, were rescued in the state as a part of Operation United Front.
KSP, along with nearly 50 other agencies across the state, helped in the operation. Detective Rugina Lunce said each state conducted simultaneous stings with undercover officers who arranged dates with potential victims, then rescued them.
"The unique aspect of Operation United Front is that it used a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach, which means all agencies involved worked together to get the victims the help they need and the tools they need to become survivors," Lunce said.
Kentucky launched its sting simultaneously Aug. 26 in four locations, including Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, McCracken County and northern Kentucky. To see a list of the people arrested, click here.
At a news conference, Gov. Andy Beshear called human trafficking a "hideous crime."
"Unfortunately, this crime is occurring in every county, in every community across the commonwealth," he said. "But we will keep fighting to make life better and safer for all Kentuckians, especially our children."
Amy Leenerts, executive director of Free2Hope in Louisville, said human trafficking is a growing problem in the state, one that "goes unnoticed by so many."
"There's just so much of it now," she said. "It's really unbelievable."
Free2Hope provides outreach and temporary shelter for human trafficking victims.
"There is a really big problem with it, and it ranges in different social economical groups as to how it looks different," Leenerts said.
Officials in participating states rescued a total of 59 victims, providing needed medical services to 41. Mental health services and substance abuse help will also be offered. Each state conducted its own operation simultaneously. Led by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Missouri Attorney General's office, Operation United Front is believed to be the first multistate operation of its kind.
"This sends a message to human traffickers across the country that their actions will not be tolerated. We will be vigilant in finding those who prey upon our most vulnerable, especially our children," says KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr.
More arrests and rescues were made in Kentucky than in the other 11 states involved in the sting:
- Illinois: Three arrests made, one victim rescued
- Iowa: Three arrests made, 10 victims rescued
- Kentucky: 46 arrests made, 21 victims rescued (including two minor victims)
- Minnesota: Three arrests made, eight victims rescued
- Missouri: Two arrests made, four victims rescued
- Nebraska: Seven arrests made
- North Dakota: Three arrests made, six victims rescued
- Oklahoma: 13 arrests made, one victim rescued
- Tennessee: Six arrests made, two victims rescued
- Texas: Two arrests made, four victims rescued
- Wisconsin: Five arrests made
Kentucky residents are asked to report suspicions of children involved in the commercial sex trade to DCBS at 1-877-KYSAFE1 and to local law enforcement. Other concerns about possible trafficking activities should be reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. To learn more about the signs of human trafficking click here.
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