Prince William County Police arrested nine people in a sting operation at a hotel in the Manassas area of Prince William County on Thursday, Aug. 8.
According to Sgt. Jonathan Perok, spokesman for the Prince William County Police Department, undercover detectives created online advertisements designed to solicit commercial sex that led to the contact of numerous suspects by phone and through social media.
Multiple suspects were then identified and charged with solicitation of prostitution and “frequenting a bawdy place,” which Virginia code defines as any place within or outside any building or structure that is used or is to be used for lewdness, assignation, or prostitution.
The operation was aimed at combating the illicit demand and solicitation of commercial sex services, which has a direct connection to human trafficking, Perok said.
“Prince William County police remains committed to the fight against labor and sex trafficking. We are dedicated to tackling the complexity and issues surrounding the commercial sex industry,” Perok said. “Anyone who solicits commercial sex plays a fundamental role in human sex trafficking by contributing to the need and demand of such activities.”
There were 143 cases of sex trafficking in Virginia in 2018, up from 112 in 2017, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Prince William County Police have conducted training at area hotels, local churches, hospitals and other county agencies to educate staff on how to identify and report suspected commercial sex and human trafficking, Perok said in a news release.
The department is planning to bolster its community education efforts and awareness campaigns about human trafficking by partnering with the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign before the end of this year, Perok said.
The Blue Campaign is “a national public awareness campaign, designed to educate the public, law enforcement and other industry partners to recognize the indicators of human trafficking, and how to appropriately respond to possible cases,” the release said.
In connection with the investigation, police charged eight men with frequenting a bawdy place and soliciting prostitution. They include:
- A 19-year-old from Manassas;
- A 21-year-old from Centreville;
- A 55-year-old from Gainesville;
- A 40-year-old from Manassas;
- A 48-year-old from Manassas;
- A 43-year-old from Winchester;
- A 35-year-old from Bristow;
- A 45-year-old from Mineral;
- A 26-year-old from Chantilly
A 21-year-old of Centreville was charged with frequenting a bawdy place, solicitation of prostitution and resisting arrest.