Over the course of four days in September, 23 agencies combined their efforts under the banner of "Operation Patriot" in order to target both the supply and the demand aspects of human trafficking and related crimes within Fort Bend County, Texas.
In the end, 46 people were arrested and 5 adults were rescued from human trafficking.
“In only four days, and with unprecedented challenges brought on by COVID-19, Operation Patriot took huge strides in eliminating the sex-trafficking trade in our county,” Chron quoted Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton as saying at the press conference on October 3. “In only four days, five lives were saved.”
“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that preys on the most vulnerable, particularly children and young adults,” said Assistant District Attorney Claire Andresen, a human trafficking and child pornography prosecutor. “The focus on identifying and arresting sex buyers combated the ‘demand’ side of human trafficking while the operation simultaneously worked to eliminate the ‘supply’ side.”
The first two days of the operation, between September 9 and 11, took place in Missouri City where a residence was raided. During that raid, five were arrested for promotion of prostitution, and five more were rescued from human trafficking.
“Many times these victims are forced to live in sub-par conditions, and a lack of basic essentials for normal health,” Khara Breeden, CEO of Texas Forensic Nurse Examiners said according to the Houston Chronicle. “They are also at risk for sexually transmitted infections, which if left untreated can cause a myriad of long term health issues.”
“What we find is that if you only eliminate the supply side (of sex trafficking) other organizations will step in to fill that demand,” Andresen said. “We simultaneously targeted both the organizations behind the sex trafficking and the people who support it to more effectively eradicate this vile criminal activity.”
The second two days of the operation, September 22 and 23, took place in Stafford when authorities swarmed a hotel where 32 men were arrested for attempting to purchase sex.
The remaining 9 arrests were due to drug-related charges.
Despite the success of Operation Patriot, Sgt. Antonio Garcia with the Houston Police Department took advantage of the opportunity to state that human trafficking is "modern-day slavery" which "can happen anywhere. It can happen at any time. This is an ongoing battle."
The agencies in involved in Operation Patriot were: the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance, the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office, Department of Family and Protective Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Public Safety, DeliverFund, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Bend County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office, Fort Bend County Precinct 2 Constable’s Office, Fort Bend County Precinct 3 Constable’s Office, Galveston County District Attorney’s Office, Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Harris County Precinct 5 Constable’s Office, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Houston Police Department, Missouri City Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Office of the Texas Attorney General, Stafford Police Department, the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, Texas Forensic Nurse Examiners and YMCA-International.