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Dozens arrested in sex trafficking crackdown during Grand Prix week

Updated November 29, 2023 - 6:58 am

A Metropolitan Police Department sex-trafficking crackdown during the week of the Las Vegas Grand Prix netted dozens of arrests, contact with more than 200 potential victims and the rescue of five children, police said Tuesday.

In a news conference at Metro’s headquarters Tuesday morning, senior Metro officers said 36 people were arrested on pandering charges, 31 people were arrested on suspicion of trying to buy sex and seven people were arrested in covert police operations in which they believed they were meeting a child for sex.

Metro Capt. Hector Cintron said 215 potential victims were identified and were offered services including emergency housing and legal protection from their trafficker. Only 21 people, or about 10 percent of those victims, accepted the services, he said.

“It often takes multiple contacts with these victims before they are ready to accept these kinds of services and help,” Cintron said.

That offering of help is part of what Cintron called Metro’s “victim-centered approach to sex trafficking.”

“It means our victim advocates respond with us to the scene and immediately offer services to every victim,” Cintron said. “Our advocates do not work for LVMPD. They are our partners.”

During the operation, Cintron said, officers worked with the local nonprofit Signs of Hope, which provides resources for those affected by sexual assault. The organization’s R.I.S.E. program, which stands for Resources and Integration for Survivor Empowerment, provides services to human and sex-trafficking victims.

Kim Small, CEO of Signs of Hope, said the organization staffs a 24/7 human-trafficking hotline. Through that hotline, she said, the organization is able to respond to victims and provide police and community resources.

“We’re able to follow up with those victims to provide services, housing, employment, education,” Small said. “We’re able to assist the victims to get out of the life and provide them with a different way of life.”

The hotline is 702-936-4004. Cintron encouraged anybody who may be a sex-trafficking victim, or who may know one, to call that number.

Police didn’t say where exactly the victims were found and arrests were made. Asked where the victims were located during the operation, Small said, “It was throughout the valley.

“It wasn’t specifically to a Strip hotel or to any hotel in the valley,” she said. “It was all over.”

Metro Deputy Chief Nick Farese also said plans by Las Vegas police to combat human and sex trafficking during the Super Bowl, which will be played Feb. 11 at Allegiant Stadium, will be announced soon.

“We are partnering with the NFL and we plan to announce something soon where we’ll be working in conjunction with the NFL and other community partners to combat human trafficking,” Farese said Tuesday.

Cintron said that before the operation got underway, police trained employees of hospitals, airlines, hotels, nightclubs and community groups “to spot the signs of sex trafficking.”

“Does a person appear to be disconnected from family or friends? Do they appear fearful or controlled by someone else?” he said. “Are they missing school or dressed up to appear older than they are? Are they going out by themselves in public late at night?”

Cintron also called on parents to check their kids’ phones and have conversations with their children.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

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