SALT LAKE CITY — Several people are facing criminal charges after undercover police officers caught them involved in a sex trafficking operation during a prostitution sting Thursday night.
The sting operation took place on 1500 S. State Street and within a few hours of an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute, six people were arrested for trying to solicit sex.
Salt Lake City Police officers said that the sex trafficking often occurs in broad daylight and it's a crime that they are trying to eliminate.
"We do make arrests regularly for people coming down to pick up prostitutes," Sgt. Shawn Josephson said.
Nearly once a week, the Organized Crime Unit conducts sting operations in Salt Lake City to find individuals soliciting sex.
"Sometimes it takes an undercover operation to actually see how rampant this crime is and how prevalent it is in the city," Josephson said.
The five men and one woman arrested Thursday ranged in age from 27 to 50. Two of them were also arrested for investigation of possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia. One man was previously convicted of sexual solicitation in 2011, another was convicted of drug-related charges in 2012 and 2007. One of the men was convicted of assault causing serious bodily harm and domestic violence in 2010.
Police said that prostitution and drug distribution often go "hand in hand" and that individuals involved in either activity will face jail time.
"If you come downtown to come pick up a prostitute, there is a good likelihood that you're going to jail."
"If you come downtown to come pick up a prostitute, there is a good likelihood that you're going to jail and that you are going to have to explain why you're in jail and why your car was impounded," Josephson said.
The vice squad previously responsible for enforcing the arrests of prostitution crimes was disbanded in 2012 due to allegations of misconduct. The number of prostitution arrests decreased after vice was disbanded, but since the Organized Crime Unit has begun patrolling for sex trafficking, police expect the numbers of arrests to increase.
The statistics on prostitution in Salt Lake City have been requested from the police department, and will be released Friday afternoon.
Contributing: Pat Reavy