A Lincoln police sergeant hopes the recent arrests of 16 men in a sex trafficking sting will show offenders that they’re often buying sex from women who are being forced to sell it.
The Lincoln Police Department accepted an invitation from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois to take part in the sting along with 17 other states.
In all, 1,032 people were arrested. Of those, 961 were would-be sex buyers, or johns, and 71 were pimps, or traffickers, Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart said in a news release Thursday.
Of the 16 arrested in Lincoln, two were charged with felonies for having prior convictions of solicitation of prostitution: Ronald Bernard Sladky, 58, of Wahoo, who was convicted in Omaha in 2012; and Jerry Wayne Stanton, 53, of Crete, who has two prior convictions in 2008 from Lincoln.
One man was charged with third-degree sexual assault, a misdemeanor, for grabbing an undercover officer's buttock, Lincoln Police Sgt. Ben Miller said Thursday
Most of the offenders LPD cited are from Lincoln, but men from Fairmont, Omaha and Texas are among the 16. It’s unknown if the men were already visiting Lincoln at the time or came here specifically to solicit sex.
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Miller said LPD plans to keep doing similar operations, but this particular one was meant to target the johns.
“With any business, which people consider prostitution and human trafficking part of a business, there’s two sides to it, supply and demand,” Miller said. “If you can affect one of those, or both of them, it should theoretically drive down the problem. That’s what this operation was about, lowering the demand and arresting the johns.”
While Miller didn't go into details of how the operation was conducted, he did say officers used technology and social media to catch johns.
“They (the johns) found us; they would contact our (undercover) officers,” he said.
Nationwide, 41 percent of the operation’s john and trafficker arrests stemmed from online ads for prostitution.
Miller said he hopes the operation shows would-be johns that they are often buying sex from victims of human trafficking, which is different from prostitution. Sex trafficking involves a third party -- the pimp -- and the elements of force, fraud or coercion of the victim.