A human-trafficking sting that was focused on online prostitution led to the arrests of 64 people, California authorities announced this week.
The Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force arrested 61 men and one female for solicitation of prostitution and two other men on other prostitution and solicitation charges January 24-28, authorities said in a statement released Tuesday.
Task force officials said investigators set up stings at sites known for sex trafficking and targeted businesses that had previously been reported for illegal sexual activity.
In addition to the arrests, task force officers found two women believed to be victims of sex trafficking who were being forced to engage in prostitution against their will.
The arrests were part of an annual effort by local, state and federal authorities to combat sexual slavery and human trafficking in California, according to the statement.
Last year, 518 people were arrested, while 87 victims, including 11 children, were recovered during the effort, it said.
Human trafficking is a worldwide problem. The U.S. State Department and the International Labor Organization (ILO) have reported that between 25 million and 40 million people are trafficked around the globe each year.
Many of those victims — 99% of whom are women or children — are being trafficked specifically for sex, according to the ILO. It also said about one in four victims of trafficking is a child.
Trafficking also picks up during high-profile events that draw huge out-of-town crowds, such as this weekend’s Super Bowl, which is being held Sunday in Tampa, Florida.
To prevent trafficking, the National Football League, which highlights local organizations at the Super Bowl site each year, has designated a community grant for the Hillsborough County Commission on Human Trafficking, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.
Florida ranks third among U.S. states in volume of human trafficking victims, according to the Human Tracking Hotline.