LUBBOCK, Texas – The Lubbock Police Department (LPD) announced on Thursday that 14 people were arrested and charged in connection to a two-day prostitution sting.

With Thursday’s operation, LPD has now conducted 10 human trafficking operations in 2023 that resulted in 185 total arrests. In 2022, LPD carried out 16 prostitution stings, an increase from the 13 reported in 2021.

“Usually, when you hear the word sex trafficking, you think of a Third World developing country, or people coming over from Mexico,” said Leslie Timmons, the community education director with Voice of Hope Rape Crisis Center. “We’re talking about domestic sex trafficking. Most traffickers don’t have to go to the trouble of going over to another country. They prey on kids and young adults here in our community.”

LPD said nine victims have made outcries this year.

“When a victim makes an outcry, they state that they are being compelled, or forced, to participate in prostitution,” LPD said. “If a victim of human trafficking is identified, they are not charged or arrested.”

LPD partners with Voice of Hope to provide resources for victims who make outcries.

“It’s very hard to get away from that life,” Timmons said. “We meet victims at the jail to help them try to figure out what’s next when they get out of jail, we’ll provide clothing if they need some clothing. Many victims just have the clothes on their backs. They can get free counseling for crisis intervention and case management.”

Timmons said the number of people that Voice of Hope helps increases every year. In 2021, the nonprofit worked with 58 sex trafficking victims. That number nearly doubled the next year to 108. 

“Traffickers operate in darkness,” Timmons said. “It’s hard to analyze the statistics, but we’re hoping that we’re seeing more people come forward and ask for help.”

To report human trafficking activity, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Timmons said all calls made from Lubbock and 21 surrounding counties will be automatically transferred to Voice of Hope.

“There’s always a path to get out,” Timmons said. “You don’t have to go through this alone. We will be there from start to finish. What happened in your past doesn’t define what has to happen in your future.”

To learn more about Voice of Hope’s website.