TBI: “It’s happening here in the Tri-Cities,” local men arrested in human trafficking sting

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL)- State agents are conducting stings across the state, targeting the people driving the demand for prostitution and sex trafficking. In the most recent sting, two men from the Tri-Cities were arrested for patronizing prostitution.

For decades, police in the Tri-Cities periodically have arrested people for patronizing a prostitute. But now, state and even federal agents are getting involved, conducting an organized police sting as they attempt to solve a much bigger problem.

“It’s happening here in the Tri-Cities,” Leslie Earhart with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said.

A sting in early December by special agents with the TBI and Morristown Police Department targeted people driving the demand for illicit sex.

“What we’re doing is focusing on those who create the demand for human trafficking so ads are placed online by undercover agents and eight men responded to those at all eight were arrested,” Earhart said.

Of those arrested, TBI said some traveled from the Tri-Cities area to answer the ad selling sex, one man from Greeneville, and one from Blountville.

Earhart said the charge they are facing, patronizing prostitution, isn’t something to take lightly.

“We don’t want people to hear the charge of patronizing prostitution and think that it’s no big deal,” Earhart said. She said across the state, the demand for prostitutes is driving pimps to kidnap and force victims to engage in sex acts.

“Some are absolutely forced into it and you know when those ads are posted online they’re not going to advertise that they are a victim of human trafficking, someone else is posting that for them so those are the females that we really want to focus on and we want to basically rescue,” Earhart said.

Earhart said TBI will continue to search statewide for victims of sex trafficking and those driving the demand “For as long as there’s a problem.”

A side note- TBI said the three-day planned sting got cut short to two days when agents were diverted to Sevier County to help after the wildfires.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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