Sheriff's deputies in McLennan County, Texas, recently lured men and women to their area via the web in order to arrest them for charges related to pimping and prostitution.
Sheriff Parnell McNamara told the media at a press conference June 24 that the "real" targets of his sting operation were pimps, and that his officers were saving victims of sex trafficking, noted KCEN.
However, of the 56 people arrested, most of them were women aged 18-50, not minors who are normally recognized as victims of human sex trafficking.
According to McNamara, most of the women were forced into prostitution. He said that nine were being released to UnBound, a Christian organization.
UnBound, which is based in Waco, Texas, lists "Jesus and the Local Church" and "Prayer" as part of its values on its website. It's not clear if it is legal for law enforcement to turn over accused prostitutes to a religious organization.
If we can save an individual, that’s part of our goal, not just to throw people in jail. However, make no mistake, putting criminals in jail is our favorite pastime.
It's our understanding that some of these pimps are afraid to come into McLennan County, and rightfully so, so they stay in Dallas and they send the girls down here.
So when we find the young ladies here, if we can make a connection to a Dallas or Houston pimp, then we do, and we reach out and we go get them.
McNamara said that his deputies worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to arrest the alleged pimps and prostitutes.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created in 2001 to fight terrorism.
In another apparent effort to "save" the victims, McNamara posted many of their mug shots on the McLennan County Sheriff's Office's Facebook page, which noted a seizure of $4,500 from the arrests.
The Facebook page adds: "Over the last 19 months these detectives have initiated a total of 200 cases, showing this community that this form of modern day slavery is in our back yard. Of these cases numerous involved pimps who were transporting prostitutes from every corner of the United States."
If the Facebook page is correct, the main reason the accused people ended up in "our back yard" is because law enforcement "initiated" contact to lure the accused to McLennan County from all over the country.
The Facebook page also states: "Since beginning these stings we have learned of individuals who will no longer participate in Human Trafficking or prostitution in McLennan County, and will travel to Dallas and Austin to carry out these acts. This is evidence that the hard efforts of this office and our partners are curbing these offenses in McLennan County, making this a safer environment for our citizens."
McNamara didn't explain how luring alleged pimps and prostitutes to McLennan County to arrest them makes the county safer than it was before.
Some the Facebook comments included:
So... which is it, human trafficking, or prostitution? THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE. I hope everyone realizes that trafficked people are victims and should neither be arrested nor have their pictures plastered all over. I also think it does more harm than good to shame and harass sex workers under the guise of 'rescuing' them. You want to get rid of dangerous, abusive pimps? You want to make life safer for everyone in the community? Decriminalize prostitution. It's no one's business what consenting adults do in bed.
So you guys victimized many of these people twice?