Missouri AG announces 102 arrests, 47 rescues in multi-state human trafficking probe

More than 100 people were arrested during a 12-state law enforcement operation against human trafficking Thursday night and into the morning, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced at a Friday news conference in Kansas City.

A months-long investigation led to 102 arrests and the rescue of 47 victims and sex workers, Schmitt said. Two of the arrests and four of the victims were in Kansas City.

“This operation, which we named Operation United Front, has been months in the making and required detailed preparation, minute-by-minute coordination and meticulous implementation,” Schmitt said.

The investigation relied on undercover officers who arranged dates or meetups with potential human trafficking victims or who posed as victims so the buyer or trafficker could be identified.

Two of the 47 victims were minors, but they were not in Missouri.

Schmitt called the operation, which was conducted simultaneously throughout several states, “unprecedented.”

He said Missouri takes a “victim-centric approach” and that victims that were rescued were connected with medical attention and referrals for other services. He said the state has enough beds for trafficking victims.

“We want to have as many services as possible to help them get on their feet, to be able to have a different life and get out of a really dark underworld,” Schmitt said.

However advocates in Missouri have told The Star that the state has large gaps in services including housing, education and job training.

“I think that there is definitely a lot of ways we can strengthen what we’re currently doing,” said Linda McQuary, director of the Missouri Coalition Against Trafficking and Exploitation.

A 2019 survey by Saint Francis Ministries found Missouri had a total of 37 beds for adult and minor victims of commercial sex exploitation.

If you need help, the National Human Trafficking Hotline can be reached at 1-888-373-7888 or by texting 233733.