30 arrested on sex trafficking charges during NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans

TRAFFICNEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana state police say an investigation involving local authorities and the FBI resulted in 30 arrests in connection with sex trafficking during the NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans.

The arrests included 22 women and four men arrested on prostitution-related charges. Four other men were booked for allegedly using computers to solicit minors for sex. The operation also resulted in the rescue of a juvenile believed to have been exploited since she was 14.

“While the FBI and its partners never rest in pursuit of those engaged in sex trafficking and online sexual exploitation, we will continue to further heighten our efforts during the many special events held in New Orleans that, unfortunately, trigger spikes in this type of criminal activity,” Michael Anderson, head of the FBI’s New Orleans office, said in a joint statement with state police issued Friday.

The women are believed to have traveled to New Orleans from across the country including California, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas to engage in sex-related crimes during the NBA All-Star weekend.

“Louisiana State Police remains committed to protecting our citizens and visitors from those individuals choosing to promote, solicit, and engage in sex crimes especially involving juvenile victims,” said Colonel Mike Edmonson, superintendent of state police.

The release said the FBI’s Violent Crimes against Children Unit and agents from FBI field offices in New Orleans and Houston worked with state police, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children throughout the All-Star event.

The arrests were the latest related to law enforcement efforts to stop human trafficking during major sporting events that draw large numbers of tourists to major cities.

Ahead of the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium, New Jersey officials set up training for legions of law enforcement personnel, hospitality workers, high school students, airport employees and others on identifying the signs of sex trafficking. Later, authorities reported that 16 juveniles forced into prostitution were rescued by the FBI in a two-week operation leading up to the Super Bowl.