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Dozens from NKY, Cincinnati Area Arrested/Cited in Human Trafficking Sting

Northern Kentucky was targeted as part of Operation United Front, a multi-state human trafficking sting carried out last week by twenty-nine law enforcement agencies across Kentucky.

Twenty-one victims were rescued, including two minors, and 46 people were arrested or cited, Governor Andy Beshear announced on Wednesday. All local arrests and citations involved solicitation of prostitution with a handful facing additional charges of drug possession, including the 17 from Northern Kentucky counties, and the others from surrounding counties in Ohio and Indiana.

The 12-state human trafficking operation, led by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and Missouri Highway Patrol, is believed to be the first multistate operation of its kind, the governor said.

Kentucky conducted four trafficking operations simultaneously in Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, McCracken County, and Northern Kentucky. The Kentucky State Police (KSP) organized and led the commonwealth’s effort. 

“Operation United Front is a great example of creating a better and safer Kentucky, one that is free of this hideous crime,” Beshear said. “Thank you to all the law enforcement agencies and organizations involved for rescuing these victims and holding these heinous offenders accountable. Unfortunately, this crime is occurring in every county, in every community across the commonwealth, but we will keep fighting to make life better and safer for all Kentuckians, especially our children.”

Officials in participating states rescued a total of 59 victims, providing needed medical services to 41, and arrested 102 suspects across the country in connection with human trafficking. Each state conducted its own operation simultaneously, while sharing information with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. Prior to the operation, Missouri offered training and information about how to conduct these operations to participating states. 

“Operation United Front was a success because of the hard work and dedication of all law enforcement professionals working together,” said KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr. “This sends a message to human traffickers across the country that their actions will not be tolerated. We will be vigilant in finding those who prey upon our most vulnerable, especially our children. While we as law enforcement are responsible for investigating the cases and arresting the individuals involved, there is a whole other dynamic to these cases and that is the care provided by the victim services community.”

In addition to KSP, several Kentucky agencies supported the commonwealth’s efforts in Operation United Front contributing to the overall success.

These agencies include: Anderson County Sheriff’s Office; Boone County Sheriff’s Office; Bowling Green Police Department; Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport Police Department; Department of Homeland Security; Elizabethtown Police Department; Florence Police Department; Grayson County Sheriff’s Office; Greater Hardin County Drug Task Force; Hart County Sheriff’s Office; Homeland Security Intelligence; Homeland Security Investigations, Louisville; Kenton County Police Department; Kentucky Office of the Attorney General; LaRue County Sheriff’s Office; Lawrenceburg Police Department; Marshall County Sheriff’s Office; McCracken County Police Department; Nelson County Sheriff’s Office; Paducah Police Department; Radcliff Police Department; U.S. Secret Service; Shepherdsville Police Department; Simpson County Sheriff’s Office; South Central Kentucky Drug Task Force; Warren County Drug Task Force; and Western Kentucky University Police Department.

Additional organizations provided victim support services including medical, housing, food and other needed services. Among the organizations providing aid were Barren County Area Child Advocacy Center, Catholic Charities, Department for Community Based Services, Kentucky State Police Victim Advocates, Northern Kentucky Children Advocacy Center, Refuge for Women, Southeast Christian Church, Salvation Army and Salvation Army of Cincinnati

“The unique part of Operation United Front is that we utilized a victim-centered approach,” said Detective Rugina Lunce, KSP Human Trafficking Task Force Coordinator. “All agencies involved worked together to provide victims with the help they need to become survivors with a chance for a fresh start.”

The Kentucky Office of Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigations and Human Trafficking Investigation Unit led the operation in McCracken County and supported operations in Warren County.

“We know that human trafficking transcends county and state lines, and multistate efforts like Operation United Front are essential to addressing the human trafficking crisis in our communities,” said Attorney General Daniel Cameron. “Every arrest made leads to one less trafficker on our streets and sends a message that we will not allow any person to exploit another through labor and sex trafficking. I’m incredibly grateful for the collaboration and for the partnerships exhibited throughout this operation, and I extend my sincere thanks to law enforcement across Kentucky who worked tirelessly to carry out Operation United Front.”

This story has been updated, removing the names of the local people charged in this operation. That list is available from the state, but after it was determined that the common charge locally was solicitation of prostitution, a misdemeanor, RCN has made the editorial decision to remove the list of names. The specific charges faced by the people arrested or cited was not originally included by the state. 

-Staff report