SAN DIEGO (CNS) - More than 400 people were arrested in a three-day statewide sweep aimed at stopping the sexual exploitation of young women and girls, law enforcement authorities in San Diego and other jurisdictions announced Tuesday.
"Operation Reclaim and Rebuild" also resulted in the recovery of 28 sexually exploited children and 27 women, according to the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force.
According to the task force, 142 male suspects were arrested on suspicion of solicitation, 238 suspects on suspicion of prostitution and 36 male suspects on suspicion of pimping.
In San Diego County, last week's operation resulted in the arrest of 38 individuals, including 22 buyers, all of whom were charged with soliciting for prostitution, officials said.
"This operation sends a clear message to those who would pay for sex in San Diego County," said Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan. "If you think you're not being watched, you are. If you think you're operating in the darkness, you're not. If you think you won't be caught and held accountable for your role in promoting sex trafficking, think again."
Authorities said there were three goals of the operation:
-- disrupting the demand for the vulnerable victims by targeting their buyers;
-- identifying and arresting their captors and seeking successful prosecutions against them; and
-- identifying and recovering victims of sexual slavery and human trafficking and providing them with needed services.
Although this was the third annual "Operation Reclaim and Rebuild," this is the first one which incorporated law enforcement from throughout the state.
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In San Diego County, the operation involved more than 160 personnel from 18 different law enforcement agencies.
As part of the operation focused on buyers who shop for sex online, fake ads were posted online offering sex for money. When the men responding to the ad showed up at a hotel, they were arrested, authorities said.
The operation also focused on rescuing victims of human trafficking. Law enforcement worked to identify and make contact with adults and juveniles being exploited by their traffickers. As a result, two people were rescued, including a 16-year-old girl.
A recent study showed the underground sex industry in San Diego is about an $810 million annual business, Stephan said.