Over the past three months, a human trafficking operation in Florida resulted in the apprehension of 123 individuals — including a spiritual leader, a nurse, and a teacher. The operation, named Operation Renewed Hope, was conducted by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office’s Human Trafficking Squad.
Sheriff Chad Chronister revealed that detectives carried out undercover operations on the streets and in hotels, as well as engaged in online chats where they posed as minors available to engage in inappropriate activities. Additionally, detectives posed as guardians of minors to lure predators.
There may be #HumanTrafficking right next door to you. Human trafficking is a crime that knows no barriers, gender, age, or otherwise. This National Slavery and #HumanTraffickingPreventionMonth, learn about the #FBI's role in combatting this heinous crime: https://t.co/w2LIqf7eTV pic.twitter.com/Rqn2LF7Yu4
— FBI (@FBI) January 14, 2024
Sheriff Chronister explained that the decision to execute the operation during the holidays aimed to protect children, who would likely be out of school and more active online. “I wanted to ensure that our children would be protected and those wanting to pay for explicit activities and wanting to fuel the trade were not getting a free pass because of the holidays,” said Chronister.
Following the arrests of 123 individuals on charges related to human trafficking, Sheriff Chronister disclosed the involvement of a basketball coach, a spiritual teacher, and a nurse.
He expressed disappointment, stating, “These are individuals who betrayed our trust. These suspects know what they are doing is wrong. Even a few of them were arrested, and we’re seeing a trend – they drop their cell phones, they take their cell phones somewhere else before they show up to [meet with] a young child because they don’t want their wife to be able to track where they are at. They know what they are doing is wrong.”
The Human Trafficking Squad has successfully arrested 604 individuals and charged 36 with trafficking-related crimes since its launch. Sheriff Chronister commended the squad’s efforts, highlighting the rescue of 28 victims from the clutches of human trafficking.
He emphasized, “That is 28 people whose lives were saved thanks to the hard work and dedication of the men and women on this team.” Chronister reiterated that those involved in such activities are aware of the wrongdoing, often leaving their cell phones behind to conceal their actions from their spouses.