In an investigation called Operation Game Over, aimed at combating sex trafficking in the county in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, undercover deputies arrested and charged 75 pimps and johns and rescued six human trafficking victims, reports Patch. Undercover deputies targeted massage parlors, hotels, motels and online chat rooms and those arrested ranged in age from 19 to 73, including three men charged with human trafficking. The investigation followed Operation Interception in January in which 71 people were arrested for soliciting sex including active-duty military members, a Christian school teacher, a firefighter, a banker, construction workers, local business owners and two registered sex offenders.
During the week leading up to the big game, the sheriff’s office arrested 32 people at hotels and motels, 27 people along roadways, eight women soliciting sex massage parlors and eight men for agreeing to pay for sex with minors who were actually undercover detectives. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said one way to deter human trafficking is to go after those who pay traffickers to have sex with women and children, ensuring that the traffickers don’t profit from the crime. Even before the Super Bowl, Tampa was ranked 12th in the country for the number of calls made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (1 (888) 373-7888). Florida has the third highest rate of human trafficking cases reported in the country, according to the FBI. In 2019, 8,248 cases of sex trafficking were reported in Florida. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, however, said the real number of sex trafficking victims is much higher. The crime is underreported because sex traffickers use addiction to drugs, threats of harm and physical captivity to prevent victims from reaching out for help.