In an effort to scare off would-be Johns before a bunch of people converge in the area for the Super Bowl next month, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office announced the arrests of 71 people on Monday.
These arrests came as part of a month-long sting unsubtly dubbed "Operation Interception," with the HCSO adding that it was part of an effort to "combat human trafficking leading up to the Super Bowl coming to Tampa in February 2021."
Local sheriff Chad Chronister went into more detail. Let's just say that if the point was to get the word out, well, guess we can consider that done.
"With less than a month until the big game, our covert operations continue, seeking those who choose to sexually exploit others here in our community,” Chronister said. “Our goal, as the operation name explains, is to ‘intercept’ individuals involved in sexual exploitation before they are able to take advantage of vulnerable individuals, and ultimately, to deter others."
The month-long operation stretched from Dec. 7, 2020 to Jan. 9, 2021. It involved both detectives putting up ads online that offered sex for money, as well as undercover female detectives roaming the streets disguised as prostitutes.
Those arrested were charged with soliciting another to commit prostitution/remaining in a place for prostitution, in addition to some being hit with other things they'll be arraigned for (see: drug possession).
Though the NFL Films library contains nary a mention of it for whatever reason, prostitution/human trafficking remains big (though unofficial) business at the Super Bowl. As such, the local authorities are attempting to get out in front of things.
“Like any major sporting event, the Super Bowl should not be a venue where these types of crimes occur on the sidelines, whether it's before, during, or after the game,” Chronister added, according to ABC Action News. “We know from past experiences with major sporting events that there will be some who travel for the exclusive purpose of taking advantage of women and children. I want to make it very clear, if you are planning to engage in the sexual exploitation of others, I’m urging you to think twice. We will find you, and you will be arrested."
Those arrested in the sting ranged in age from 20 to 62, according to TampaBay.com. That local media outlet also put into perspective how big a bust this was by saying that eight people in the county were arrested for human trafficking charges last year, while six were arrested for the same transgression in 2019.