The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department arrested over 70 individuals and identified over 200 victims in a sex trafficking operation during the recent Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix.
According to 8 News Now, Las Vegas police used the month of November to educate hundreds of employees at hotels, nightclubs, casinos, hospitals, and airlines, as well as various community groups, on how to identify potential victims of human trafficking before the week-long operation was conducted during the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
During a Tuesday press briefing, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Deputy Chief Nicholas Farese said, “What we’re seeing in the human trafficking world is that these panderers, these pimps, they travel around the country and sometimes internationally, going where the money is, so we weren’t surprised to see people flying in.”
During the press briefing, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department emphasized the widespread nature of human trafficking in the area. Capt. Hector Cintron, who works in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Gangs, Vice, and Special Investigations Bureau, told the community that sex trafficking is not limited to the city’s “tourist corridors” but that it is happening in the neighborhoods “beyond the strip.”
“During this operation, we arrested 36 individuals for pandering, or more commonly known as sex trafficking, 31 people who were trying to purchase sex for money, 7 individuals for luring a child or soliciting a minor,” Cintron said. “This was part of a covert operation where the sex buyer believed they were meeting an underage victim for sex.”
In addition to the 74 individuals who were arrested as part of the operation in Las Vegas, police officers were also able to identify 215 people that they believed were victims of sex trafficking, as well as five individuals below the age of 18.
Farese told reporters, “These are 5 juveniles that were reported as runaways that we came into contact with, in various operations both on the strip and then in other areas of town, that are running away from a bad situation and then they’re being preyed upon by human traffickers.”
According to Fox 5 Vegas, Las Vegas police worked in conjunction with Signs of Hope’s R.I.S.E. program, which is a non-profit organization that provides support and resources to human trafficking victims. While only 10% of the human trafficking victims accepted the non-profit’s services, a spokesperson for the R.I.S.E program highlighted the positive impact the organization is able to have on those who accept the services.
“Housing, employment, education, we’re able to assist the victims to get out of the life and provide them with a different way of life,” the representative said. “When we see victims that want to follow up and for our resources, we see that as a win. Each and every time, we see it as a win, no matter how many.”
During Tuesday’s press briefing, the police department also announced that it is planning to introduce a new sex trafficking initiative that will involve a partnership with the National Football League, as well as other groups in the community.