Nine teens forced into prostitution were rescued from Henrico hotels and motels as part of "Operation Innkeeper," which has been going on for over a year now. This new information comes just one day after the governor announced the Commonwealth is now a national leader in the fight against human trafficking.
Henrico's chief of police says he's not going to shy away from talking about prostitution in the county. He says the community needs to know this crime happens here.
"We had another one that we found that was from out of state who we've rescued and are now working to have that child sent back home," said Chief Doug Middleton.
Middleton is talking about the most recent case that happened just a couple of weeks ago - a 16-year-old girl from another state, forced into prostitution. During a sting, she was found in a hotel room. Police say other women and a man they identified as the pimp were also arrested.
"Those sort of things tug at my heart, because it bothers me to see people being subjected and used in such a manner as that," said Middleton.
"Operation Innkeeper" has now gained national recognition. It's not only because of the teens who have been rescued, but there have also been dozens of arrests and more than a hundred contacts made in the Henrico hotel industry, who report to police when they think something is suspicious.
"This is not something we can ignore, and human trafficking is a serious problem, not just here but nationwide," said Middleton.
It's an ongoing fight the Commonwealth has made a top priority. Middleton said he realizes they may not be able to catch every pimp, or save every victim.
"In a lot of ways, it's modern day slavery because they can't get out," said Middleton.
He says by being vigilant, the rescues will add up.
"Operation Innkeeper" has also led to the seizure of drugs and illegal firearms. The initiative also gets help from the FBI.
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