Nearly 200 arrested in 'large-scale' child sex trafficking investigation, Tallahassee police say

Suspects from across the southeast U.S. charged
Posted at 12:58 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 19:02:36-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Tallahassee Police Department announced the results of a "large-scale" human trafficking investigation Tuesday morning that resulted in 178 arrests.

The department said they recently concluded a two-year-long operation, called Operation Stolen Innocence, involving human trafficking and child sex trafficking right within the Capital City community.

Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell said that it started with an investigation after a 13-year-old child’s image was seen on a prostitution website.

Police set up an operation in November 2018 to rescue the child to ensure her safety.

Operation Stolen Innocence
More than 170 people were arrested on charges ranging from solicitation of prostitution to human trafficking of a minor, the Tallahassee (Fla.) Police Department announced Nov. 17, 2020.

Since then, 106 people have been charged with felonies and 72 with misdemeanors. Nineteen people also face federal charges, according to Revell. Charges range from solicitation of prostitution to human trafficking of a minor.

All suspects are from the southeast region, spanning to Mississippi and Alabama.

Revell said that he's "never been a case of this magnitude" in the 30 years in Tallahassee.

One of the investigators who was praised for her work on the case called the initial case that lead to dozens of arrests "horrific."

Operation Stolen Innocence
Tallahassee (Fla.) Police Department said 72 suspects were charged with misdemeanors and notices to appear, 106 suspects were charged with felonies and 18 face federal charges.

"We know it's going on in our community. We need to address this and we know it takes state and federal partners," Revell said.

Police did not release any specifics on individual cases to prevent from identifying any of the victims.Now, police are asking other victims to come forward.

They said some of the most common ways to recognize a potential human trafficking victim are:

  • The person appears malnourished
  • They show signs of physical injuries or abuse
  • They avoid eye contact, social interaction and law enforcement
  • They do not have official identification or personal possessions
  • They are never away from people

Revell, other representatives from the agency, as well as representatives from the United States Attorney’s Office Northern District of Florida, State Attorney’s Office for the Second Judicial Circuit, Homeland Security, United States Marshal Service, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, were in attendance for the announcement Tuesday morning.

Watch the full announcement below: