By: Sara Kim
Police began undercover investigations in Mesa, Arizona in order to uncover child sex trafficking crimes committed in the area. Although prostitution was already being investigated, the special focus on such crimes involving children started around the Super Bowl season, a period when prostitution rises. According to Detective Esteban, the undercover operations are conducted three to four times a year.
One of the undercover operations was named “Blue Heat,” conducted on March 28. In this investigation, officers posed to be a 16-year-old girl offering sex for money through ads on different forms of social media. A total of 5 suspects were arrested in this operation. According to Norma Salas, such suspects are most likely perpetrators of child sex trafficking, looking for new victims they can abuse. Each of the undercover operations results in an average of 4-10 suspects being arrested.
This fervent involvement in combating child sex trafficking was triggered by an incident that happened five years ago, in which a 13-year-old girl was tricked into being kidnapped and trafficked by an acquaintance. This event helped to establish the Phoenix vice squad, as “Phoenix police began to see the children as victims,” according to Salas. The Phoenix vice squad helps in the education of issues concerning child sex trafficking, by teaching the police how to recognize the crime and by informing older prostitutes about how to identify with child victims.
Sara (Da Som) Kim is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes.
Reference: Ung, Jenny. “Mesa uses undercover operations to prevent child sex trafficking.” East Valley Tribune. April 19, 2015. URL: http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/local/article_affd0126-e5dc-11e4-b84e-e72d45bcfdbb.html. Date accessed 5/3/15.
Photo Credit: Jones, Aimee. Newton Citizen.