Sex Work

More Than 400 Arrests in 'Operation Traveling Circus'

Obviously, the vice cops are the clowns here. Unfortunately, their idea of entertainment is depriving people of their liberty and livelihoods.

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Gilbert Mercier/Flickr

A Houston-area prostitution sting with the inexplicable name "Operation Traveling Circus" led to more than 400 arrests in the first two months of 2016. A joint operation of the Houston Police Department (HPD), the Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO), the Harris County District Attorney's Office, and the Houston chapter of the YMCA, Operation Traveling Circus was described by law-enforcement as a coalition of "vice task forces from the various agencies [engaging] in a multi-faceted operation to identify victims of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, arrest the consumer base of "johns" and weed out traffickers who capitalize on the illicit sex industry in our community." 

"We want word to get out to the johns and the pimps that it is not a free for all," said Dan Harris, Vice Division Captain with HPD, at a press conference. "There is a risk. You go solicit a woman, you might very well be soliciting an undercover officer." 

And that's the crux of it: Like most vice stings disguised as victim-centered investigations, this "traveling circus" featured the identification of no actual sex-trafficking victims and zero arrests of human traffickers. But the January 4 through Feburary 26 operation did yield hundreds of men who sought to pay what they thought was a willing, adult sex worker for company. To spin this as somehow related to sex trafficking, officials trotted out the much-debunked idea that sporting events are catnip to human-traffickers, who will be eager to descend on Houston in the coming months as sporting events pick up there. Making men afraid to pay for prostitution now is simply an effort to deprive these mythical future sex traffickers of their client base, officials explained. 

Women attempting to sell sex were also arrested during the operation, but their mug shots were not made public at a press event or in a Flickr album, as the mugshots of men arrested were. Epitomizing cop-style compassion (and cluelessness), Assistant DA Anne Johnson explained that the sex-worker mugshots wouldn't be posted publicly because "many are caught in prostitution, known on the streets as 'the game,' where their bodies are treated as cash cows by their pimps."

@HCSOTexas/Twitter

Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said officers had to arrest potential vicitms in order to jumpstart the "process." After arrest, booking, and a "forensic interview," law enforcement would "identify those who are trafficked from those who are working prostitutes" so those selling sex on their own could be prosecuted, while victims would have the charges dropped and gain access to some sort of nebulous social services.

Harris County and Houston law-enforcement were the ones who consulted on the canceled A&E "reality" show 8 Minutes, in which female sex workers were solicited to play "sex trafficking victims" on camera for TV producers. When those who did actually want help leaving prostitution tried to get it from show producers, they were ignored or given phone numbers to over-booked nonprofits they had already tried. At least one of them was later arrested by the Harris County officers in a sting. 

In Operation Traveling Circus, more than 200 of the 400 people arrested were "johns" who tried to solicit sex from an undercover officer, according to the HCSO. It's unclear if the rest of the arrests were of sex workers or not. These sorts of stings frequently lead to arrests for things like outstanding warrants, drug possession, or unaurhotized gun possession, as well.  

On second thought, maybe the "Traveling Circus" moniker is apt, after all for this operation. Obviously, the vice cops are the clowns here. Unfortunately, their idea of entertainment is depriving people of their liberty and livelihods because they dare try to mix money and sex, then inviting people online and in their communities to watch the show. 

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  1. alt-text fail

    1. Why is that robot choking a Zebra??

    2. WIH are we looking at?

      1. Upside down penis in a jump suit with bail and chain.

        1. Ah, yes. How could I have missed that?

      2. I bet Irish will be thrown off track too because the convict ain’t black….

  2. Send in the Clowns

  3. Assistant DA Anne Johnson explained that the sex-worker mugshots wouldn’t be posted publicly because “many are caught in prostitution, known on the streets as ‘the game,’ where their bodies are treated as cash cows by their pimps.”

    “Look at these victims! Who we will arrest and cage for being victims, blighting the rest of their lives. The poor things.”

    1. This is total bullshit. The Houston Chronicle runs prostitiution bust mugshots of sex workers, managers, and johns at least once a week. It is routinely featured without scrolling on the online edition.

  4. “where their bodies are treated as cash cows by their pimps”

    Because…. they are dependent on said pimps for protection.

    Perverse consequences, how do those work?!?!?!?

    1. Very well, thank you!
      /stuffs pimp roll in pocket

    2. This is why cope et al up their hatred on johns and whores. They’re easy to catch and usually non-violent. Catching a pimp is hard, dangerous work so bureaucrats are completely uninterested in doing so.

      1. cops

        1. Come and try to snatch my crops.

      2. Also, the vast majority of sex workers are working for themselves, so they have to invent pimps (or find a way to turn the women themselves into pimps, like when they work together)

    3. Exactly, if it was legal and they could call the cops if attacked there wouldn’t be any pimps. Just like with drugs the cops are CAUSING the chaos. Job security I guess.

  5. There is a risk. You go solicit a woman, you might very well be soliciting an undercover officer.

    Good to know these pieces of shit fully endorse guy-on-guy and girl-on-girl prostitution; I wonder how they feel about women who hire men? If people have not yet figured out sex trafficking is this week’s moral panic they are not paying attention.

    1. What about sexually ambiguous furries?

  6. ENB, did you know we could see one of your toys in your article pic?

  7. Harris County and Houston law-enforcement were the ones who consulted on the canceled A&E “reality” show 8 Minutes, in which female sex workers were solicited to play “sex trafficking victims” on camera for TV producers. When those who did actually want help leaving prostitution tried to get it from show producers, they were ignored or given phone numbers to over-booked nonprofits they had already tried. At least one of them was later arrested by the Harris County officers in a sting.

    Not surprising, but what the fuck is wrong with all of those people?

  8. Purchasing an undercover cop? What are you, some kind of drug smuggler?

  9. Even hundreds of arrests seems like pretty low productivity for 400 cops over six weeks. I guess its a good thing they are so lazy and ineffective.

    1. Catching an actual trafficker is hard and possibly dangerous, might not make it home. And they aren’t even going to arrest a customer until they’ve had their lunch first, they might have to delay it or skip it otherwise. Assuming an 8-hour shift, no effort expended until hour #5, 6 hours to entrap, arrest, and book a customer. 4 customers and you’ve worked 8 extra hours and are due for 8 hours overtime plus comp time off.

    2. What do you mean? They had to keep going back to make sure they had identified all the players and spent the entire informant budget. Do you not understand investigations?

  10. From a linked article:

    A seemingly endless string of mug shots, a so-called “Wall of Johns,” was on display at the press conference identifying many of those accused and charged.

    Accused and charged? That means they are guilty, right?

    1. If they weren’t guilty, they wouldn’t have been arrested. Check and mate, you criminal-loving libertarians.

  11. “Harris County and Houston law-enforcement were the ones who consulted on the canceled A&E “reality” show 8 Minutes, in which female sex workers were solicited to play “sex trafficking victims” on camera for TV producers. When those who did actually want help leaving prostitution tried to get it from show producers, they were ignored or given phone numbers to over-booked nonprofits they had already tried. At least one of them was later arrested by the Harris County officers in a sting. ”

    A&E continues their long history of classy reality T.V. productions! Best A&E show: The one where they fuck around with prostitutes, the one where they watch serious drug addicts get wasted before ambushing them, the one where they yell at children in prisons, or the one where they lock innocent people in Clark County prison for 60 days?

    1. or the one where they lock innocent people in Clark County prison for 60 days?

      At least they’re volunteering.

      1. I did not know A&E was so awful. Ugh.

  12. The telling quote is here:

    “Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said officers had to arrest potential vicitms in order to jumpstart the “process.” After arrest, booking, and a “forensic interview,” law enforcement would “identify those who are trafficked from those who are working prostitutes” so those selling sex on their own could be prosecuted, while victims would have the charges dropped and gain access to some sort of nebulous social services.”

    So they arrest a sex worker then give him or her the option of jail or claiming victim of trafficking to get cleared of charges and sent home.

    Anyone else smell a setup here designed specifically to create trafficking incidents where none exist?

  13. Epitomizing cop-style compassion (and cluelessness), Assistant DA Anne Johnson explained that the sex-worker mugshots wouldn’t be posted publicly because “many are caught in prostitution, known on the streets as ‘the game,’ where their bodies are treated as cash cows by their pimps.”

    Come on now…everyone knows a pimp’s love is very different than that of a square.

  14. Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman is a braindead product of kindergarten-grade morality like the rest of his goddamn carnival of bullies. No fucking sex worker can be treated worse than having her livelihood fucked over by a horde of snotbag cops dripping in a fake righteousness engineered by jaded blank-eyed feminists and their sniveling cohorts prancing behind arrogant stained glass.

    Bravo, ENB. Keep hammering these screeching despots who don’t give a single shit about lost girls and far more about bashing their tyrannical staves into the forehead of consensual adult arrangements that deviate from moral codes created by hypocrites and gaunt cock haters. Fuck the middle ages for not dying.

  15. Aren’t LEOs essentially whores pimped out by the mayors?

  16. “We want word to get out to the johns and the pimps that it is not a free for all,” said Dan Harris, Vice Division Captain with HPD, at a press conference. “There is a risk. You go solicit a woman, you might very well be soliciting an undercover officer.”

    Well, I respect your ambition Dan, but you got have vision!

  17. Stupid POS cops, go find some REAL crime to deal with, or are you afraid for REAL criminals? Apparently so.

    http://www.Anon-Net.tk

  18. “Clowns” who deprive others of life, liberty, and property, should be stopped by whatever means prove necessary.

  19. Here’s what I don’t get… in the age of the Pornonet (TM), why don’t people interested in buying or selling sex just bring a video camera? It’s not prostitution, it’s a porn movie screen test!

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