The night rescue of a teenage girl and arrest of her alleged pimp at an unnamed Santa Clara motel October 11 was part of a nation-wide sting operation by the FBI, targeting commercial sex trafficking of children. In Santa Clara County, the FBI worked with the County Sheriff’s Department.
Abel Paredes, 25, was arrested October 11 and booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose with bail set at $250,000. The unnamed 16-year-old girl had responded to a fake prostitution ad posted online. Paredes, who dropped the girl off at the motel, was stopped and arrested without incident after driving away. The underage girl, treated as a victim, was provided with appropriate social services.
In this year’s sweep of 135 cities across America, according to the FBI, 149 underage trafficking victims were rescued and 153 pimps were arrested at locations such as motels, hotels, casinos and truck stops. Called Operation Cross County, the annual sweep–this is its ninth year–was initiated by the FBI and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
“Our mission is to protect the American people–especially our children–from harm,” said FBI Director James Comey. “When kids are treated as a commodity in seedy hotels and on dark roadsides, we must rescue them from their nightmare and severely punish those responsible for that horror. We simply must continue to work with our partners to end the scourge of sex trafficking in our country.”
In Santa Clara County, Operation Cross Country took place October 11 – 14, according to Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) Administrative Services Lieutenant Dan Moreno. Although SCPD was not involved in the October 11 sting, it does work cases in cooperation with the FBI and the County Human Trafficking Task Force.
“We fully cooperate in joint operations. We’re not going to tolerate human trafficking, and we will continue to work with our partners to fight it,” said Santa Clara Police Chief Michael Sellers. “If citizens see something out of the ordinary, give the police department a call so we can investigate.”
Sellers, along with City Council member Kathy Watanabe, is a board member of the Santa Clara County Human Trafficking Commission, which was established April 29, 2014, in anticipation of the February 2016 Super Bowl in Santa Clara.
Through Operation Cross County, which is part of the FBI’s Lost Innocence National Initiative begun in 2003, more than 4,800 children have been recovered from underage prostitution and 2,000 convictions have been made in nine years.
“Santa Clara police take this very serious, and we’re diligent in following up and preventing human trafficking from occurring in our city,” said Lt. Moreno.
When SCPD investigates a possible prostitution or sex trafficking case, the officers look at the prostitutes as victims and offer assistance to them through nonprofit social service organizations. In the case of minors, efforts are made to return them to their families, if possible.
To report suspicious activities locally, contact the County Human Trafficking Task Force at 408-918-4960 or the SCPD, 601 El Camino Real, at (408) 615-4700.
Visit the county sheriff’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/sccosheriff) for county case updates and information.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center website is www.traffickingresourcecenter.org. Its hotline is (888) 373-7888.