Eleven men were arrested in Chattanooga for seeking illicit sex from minors, and one woman was charged with promoting prostitution, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) announced Wednesday.
The arrests were made during a two-day undercover Human Trafficking Operation run by Chattanooga Police, the TBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Tennessee Human Trafficking Task Force.
In a statement Wednesday, TBI described the sting:
Over a two-day period beginning November 10th, as part of an undercover investigation aimed at addressing human trafficking in the East Tennessee area, undercover officers placed several decoy advertisements on websites known to be linked to prostitution and commercial sex. The focus of the operation was to identify individuals seeking to engage in commercial sex acts with minors. As a result of the operation, agents and detectives arrested 11 men and one female, and booked them into the Hamilton County Jail.
Out of the twelve arrested, eight were from Tennessee, one was from Illinois, and three were from Georgia.
The TBI also reported that during the operation, one woman was able to receive help from services offered by Willowbend Farms, a non-profit program that works with survivors of human trafficking, and was on-site during the operation.
Aiming to stem the human trafficking crisis in the United States, the TBI created ItHasToStop. The program works to advise residents of Tennessee to notice signs of sex trafficking and offers resources for those who want to help end human trafficking in the state.
The website offers a list of warning signs for both sex and labor trafficking.
Some of the warning signs for sex trafficking listed are:
Branded or marked with a tattoo, such as a man’s name, a symbol of money, or a barcode.
Dressed in a provocative manner or in the same clothes, regardless of weather or circumstance.
Has an unexplained, sudden increase in money, clothing, or possessions like jewelry without explanation.
Has a number of hotel keys or key cards.
Claims to be an adult, though their appearance suggests adolescence.
Talks about an older boyfriend or sex with an older man.
Accompanied by someone who seems to control their every move.