SALT LAKE CITY — Human trafficking in Utah is growing.
At a press conference held at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes laid out recent arrests and cases he and his law enforcement partners are trying to prosecute.
“Anybody who would say that human trafficking and child exploitation doesn't exist in our community is perpetuating a very irresponsible myth amongst the community,” Reyes said.
In April and May of 2016, The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force took part in a nationwide sweep of child predators, called Operation Broken Heart III.
Authorities arrested 1,368 suspects, including 71 from Utah. The suspects were charged with various offenses including possession and manufacturing of child pornography and soliciting children online for sex.
“At least six children between the ages of five and 12 were rescued during this operation,” said Leo Lucey, Chief Criminal Investigator with the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
Two of the cases involved human trafficking of minors inside Utah.
“They're amongst us every day and we probably just barely scratched the surface,” Lucey said.
The Secure Strike Force is handling 11 separate human trafficking investigations. They’ve identified 10 victims , two of which are minors.
“Most of these young women were being recruited from high schools in the state of Utah and are as young as 15 years of age,” said Greg Febrache, Chief Criminal Prosecutor, Utah Attorney General’s Office.
While a lot of the attention goes into the investigation and prosecution of these cases, Reyes said their number one goal is to protect the victims.
“The real heavy lifting I believe comes once we've liberated these victims from the hell in which they've been living and try to get them the resources they need: mental, emotional, psychological,” Reyes said.
The key is for the community to speak up. Investigators say the more strange the story, the more true it is. If you see suspicious activity, you can report it to any of the following agencies:
ICAC Tip Line: 801.281.1211
ICAC Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SECURE Tip Line: 801-200-3443
UTIP Tip Line: 801-200-3443
Human Trafficking National Hotline: 1-888-373-7888