MIDLAND COUNTY, TX (KWES) - A major human trafficking sting in Midland County, in 10 days 37 people were busted on charges relating to the investigation.
Authorities said 18 of those men were trying to solicit a prostitute under the age of 18. It was all part of a month long investigation by local and federal agencies, aiming to protect children. 34 of the people charged have already been arrested, the other 3 people have warrants out for their arrest.
Authorities tell us they've been planning and strategizing for several months. Midland County, District Attorney Laura Nodolf said in the past they would average about 7 arrests for a shorter operation, based on those trends law enforcement came up with the plan for a bigger operation.
Police said people responded to online while they conducted an undercover human trafficking operation. Nodolf said the the online ads have changed how they find the predators.
"Lots of people think, oh prostitution, well you go to a certain location and a certain street and they're walking down the street and you say, hey you wanna come have a good time with me," said Nodolf. "Well these people have gotten smart, they've gotten smart and they've gotten dark."
Nodolf said authorities and prosecutors have gotten smart too. Arrest documents said many of the men arrested responded to online ads, trying to solicit a prostitute between the ages of 13 and 16, asking for sexual favors for as little as $10.
When they would arrive, undercover agents were there to meet them. Undercover agents responded to ads posted by prostitutes.
"This operation was very important because children are victims," said Brendan Griffin with the FBI. "So we made sure this had our full attention and we had every resource requested by DPS and our other partners."
Jack McClain with Homeland says technology has made soliciting easier.
"I wouldn't characterize Midland as worse or better off as anywhere," said McClain. "Unfortunately, it's just the sign of the times and it's a phenomenon, the wide-spread expansion of social media has brought on."
The Midland county district attorney and the FBI both said they're deciding which cases will be tried in state court and which ones will be tried on a federal level. Criminal history and the severity of the conversations with minors will be factored into their decisions.