HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — More than 80 arrests were made in a human trafficking sting in Hillsborough County. 

  • Over 80 arrested in human trafficking sting
  • Operation Trade Secrets aimed to identify victims

The undercover investigation dubbed "Operation Trade Secrets" aimed to identify human trafficking victims and address the means by which these victims enter into sex trafficking. 

"Human trafficking can happen in any community and to victims of any age, race or nationality, as our detectives have seen throughout the course of this investigation," said Sheriff Chad Chronister. "We realize that many victims are afraid to come forward, so we're actively working to find them and committing resources to targeting those who engage in human trafficking."

The Special Investigations Division and Crime Investigations Division worked together on the multi-faceted operation which occured from January 1 through June 7 of this year.

Sheriff Chronister held a news conference Monday morning releasing more details behind the lengthy investigation. 

According to officials, detectives made a total of 85 arrests focusing on internet activities, hotels and motels, sex trade activities, spa and massage parlors, and strip clubs in unincorporated Hillsborough County. 

Most of the charges range from human trafficking, soliciting another to commit prostitution, and offering to committ prostitution.

Officials said one suspect was arrested three times during the investigation.  Another suspect was arrested twice. 

The sheriff's office has offered tips to better identify human trafficking victims: 

  • Signs of physical abuse (burn marks, bruises, cuts)
  • Poor physical or dental hygiene
  • Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, authority figures/law enforcement
  • Seeming to adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interactions
  • Lacking official identification documents
  • Appearing to lack personal possessions

Many victims do not come forward due to:

  • Fear of retaliation from their trafficker
  • Distrust of others, including law enforcement
  • Lack of knowledge about resources available to help them