A five-day federal-led sex sting conducted in Dallas-Fort Worth last week resulted in 134 arrests.
The Department of Homeland Security spearheaded an operation of the North Texas Trafficking Task Force targeting the buyers of commercial sex between September 11 and 15, according to a news release.
Although none of the names of the suspects apprehended during the bust have been released, the authorities reported that two of them were allegedly traffickers. Four unlawful migrants slated for deportation were also among those arrested.
Several others were reported to be individuals holding prominent positions in the community, including a nurse affiliated with a major Dallas medical network, a potential new hire for a City police department, a high-ranked local City employee, and four individuals with access to secure zones within the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.
The State of Texas made the solicitation of sex a felony offense in 2021, the first to do so in the country. If found guilty, a john can be sentenced to up to two years in prison on the first offense. Those in support of the measure said it represents a significant deterrent to buying sex that can help curb overall demand.
“Potential customers who seek commercial sex are often as culpable as those who levy violence to keep their victims entrapped,” said Lester R. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Dallas.
Moreover, sex and human trafficking operations are often intertwined with larger criminal enterprises.
In the case of the recent sting, firearms and controlled substances, including methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana, were seized.
A total of 15 different federal, state, and local law enforcement entities were involved in the initiative, including the Texas National Guard; the Texas Department of Public Safety; the Tarrant County Human Trafficking Task Force; the Dallas, Haltom City, Richland Hills, Richardson, Midlothian, and Lake Worth police departments; and the Dallas, Grayson, and Ellis county sheriff’s offices.
As reported in The Dallas Express earlier this month, Dallas has seen a substantial increase in prostitution-related offenses in 2023 as DPD’s Northwest Patrol Division’s efforts to curb the activity in its jurisdiction, which overlaps with City Council Member Omar Narvaez’s District 6 — said to be “ground zero” for such offenses.
As of September 22, data from the City of Dallas clocked 489 reported prostitution offenses citywide, of which 44 were sex purchasers and 39 were facilitators of these commercial sex transactions. The rest were those selling sex, with these crimes spiking by over 217% compared to this time last year.
Although the number of human trafficking offenses logged citywide has remained comparatively low at 35 as of September 22, this represents a nearly 7% year-over-year increase.
DPD has been considerably strained in its efforts to combat crime due to an ongoing officer shortage. Although the City currently employs just under 3,200 officers, a prior analysis suggested that Dallas would require about three officers for every 1,000 residents — approximately 4,000 officers — to be adequately served.
Downtown Dallas reflects this shortage most of all, with significantly higher crime rates logged there than in the centers of other cities, including neighboring Fort Worth. A special neighborhood police unit reportedly patrols Cowtown’s center alongside private security guards.