In a three-night sting operation conducted by the San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, and Arroyo Grande police departments, officers arrested 37 people, booking them on suspicion of solicitation of prostitution. Two of the people detained were also arrested on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
While the majority of arrestees are from SLO County, six are from Santa Maria, one is from Lompoc, and seven are from counties outside of the area.
According to a press release from the SLO Police Department, “human trafficking for sex and acts of prostitution … has had a noticeable increase in our local hotels/motels.” The document states that the intent of the operation—which was carried out from Oct. 21 to 23—was to arrest human traffickers, freelance prostitutes, and customers—also referred to as “Johns.”
The press release goes on to say that in “recent times our communities have experienced the use of underage females by ‘pimps’ to engage customers in acts of sex” and that they are often “held against their will and are coerced into services through force, fear, and retaliation.”
As New Times previously reported, two Fresno men were indicted by a federal grand jury for sex trafficking of a minor in December 2013, after they were arrested on suspicion of forcing two underage girls into prostitution in both Fresno and San Luis Obispo.
In May of this year, an undercover sting operation resulted in the arrest of a SLO man on suspicion of pimping a 16-year-old girl. The 16-year-old was also arrested on suspicion of prostitution, but the San Luis Obispo District Attorney didn’t pursue charges against her. The man was later convicted and sentenced to three years in state prison.
None of the 37 people arrested in the Oct. 21 to 23 sting was underage.
The SLO Police Department didn’t return a request for comment as of press time.