SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Three men were arrested in Santa Barbara County late January in a statewide human trafficking crackdown which netted over 500 total arrests.
Between January 25 and 27, the statewide sting led to the arrest of 510 people across the state and the recovery of 56 minor and adult victims.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office was one of more than 80 agencies that participated in the large operation.
In the local sting operations, investigators made contact with a person advertising on an online escort page and negotiated a sex act in exchange for money.
Investigators made contact with the individuals to determine if they were being exploited. Four women were contacted and offered services from Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office advocates specially trained in human trafficking. Two additional individuals from Las Vegas and one individual from San Gabriel were contacted during the operation and were also offered help.
Sheriff's deputies arrested Ernest McDowell III, 29, Keilon Ernest Palms Sr., 30, and Tavari Devon Evans, 28, all from Fresno in connection to the sting. They face possible charges for pimping and pandering and Evans faces an additional charge for possession of a controlled substance.
All across the state, 178 males were arrested for solicitation and 30 males were arrested for pimping as part of 'Operation Reclaim and Rebuild.’
Lt. Brian Olmstead with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office spoke at a press conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday and said he was encouraged by the results of the operation.
“Members of law enforcement in Santa Barbara County will continue to conduct proactive operations in order to rescue victims of human trafficking and arrest the suspects who are preying on the vulnerable population within our communities," Olmstead said. "We hope the public will be vigilant in reporting any suspicious activity that could be related to human trafficking. People who are victims of human trafficking have been rescued solely by citizens who reported seeing suspicious behavior.”
More information about human trafficking can be found here.