Tallahassee, Florida police on Tuesday announced the arrest of 178 people in what they termed a "large-scale" human trafficking operation.
WTVT Fox 13 reports the Tallahassee police held a news conference on "Operation Stolen Innocence," a two-year-long investigation into trafficking in The Sunshine State's capital city.
Authorities first began the operation in November of 2018 after investigators found a 13-year-old's image on a prostitution website. The police special victim's unit recovered the girl, and their ongoing investigation led to the arrests.
Police Chief Lawrence Revell said 106 people have been charged with felonies. Seventy-two will face misdemeanor charges and another 19 suspects will face federal charges. The charges include the production of child pornography, human sex trafficking of a minor, and solicitation of prostitution, according to the local news outlet.
"Human sex trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide," Revell said. "Florida ranks in the top 5 in the nation for reports of human trafficking."
The US Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Lawrence Keefe praised the coordination and collaboration between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
"But," he said, "Our work is not done. Regrettably, there is no finish line here. The local, state, and federal team that we have assembled here must remain in place and it must remain vigilant."
Keefe reminded those present that even as the search continues for suspects, it's the young victims who need long-term support, assistance, and recovery.
"We must not overly focus on these traffickers and forget the victims," he said. "The victims need our help. We must all be there for them in every way that we can."
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