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Sting operation targets human trafficking in Pierce Co. truck stops

Ten women rescued in the first four hours of the operation.

A sting operation in Pierce County rescued victims of prostitution and human trafficking this week in "Operation Human Freight."

Washington State Patrol and Lakewood police set up the operation, which centered on truck stops, after receiving complaints from citizens.

Detectives went undercover to connect with prostitutes in person and on the internet. The goal: To rescue girls caught up in human trafficking and prostitution.

"We want to provide these young women with a way out," says WSP Lieutenant James Mjor. "Many of these women are out on the streets soliciting sex because they feel it's their only option."

In less than four hours, officers rescued 10 girls and made several arrests on charges including promotion of prostitution, soliciting prostitution and possession with intent to sell.

"The reason that there were so many victims, is because there are so many buyers. And the only way that we are going to solve this problem is if we can decrease the number of buyers," said Mar Brettmann, Executive Director of Businesses Ending Slavery & Trafficking.

After more than six years battling human trafficking she understands just how bad the problem is. She's just back from a conference in Washington, D.C. where her organization partnered with Truckers Against Trafficking.

"To encourage men in the trucking industry to stand up and say, hey, we don't engage in this sex buying activity and we don't think our colleagues should either," said Brettmann.

It's a multi-faceted fight to lock up pimps, educate johns, and help victims find resources.

"We had a survivor there," said Lt. Mjor. "And she was one strong lady, and she was able to talk to these ladies and say, 'hey, I've spent the day in your shoes, I know you don't want to be here, let me help you out.'"

Wednesday's bust was the first stop of what WSP says will be a statewide campaign.

"We've got great partners everywhere. We might be in Spokane tomorrow, Vancouver the next day. You never know where we're gonna be at," he said.

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