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Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Arrests 176 People For Sex Trafficking

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - 176 people are now behind bars.

This comes after Hillsborough County Sheriff's Human Trafficking Squad spent three months investigating sex trafficking crimes.

Through their investigations, they learned some concerning new information.

Sheriff Chad Chronister says more groups are getting involved in sex trafficking this year, like members of violent gangs.

"Please, I'm going to beg you one more time, if you want to traffic someone for sex, if you want to purchase another individual for sex, or you want to prey on the children of our community, go to another county, because the odds are against you. You photo is going to be on one of these boards," said sheriff Chronister.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister says his human trafficking squad is working around the clock to find human traffickers and their victims.

"It is disturbing the number of individuals who wanted to purchase sex from our undercover female detectives," said Chronister.

Over the last year, the squad arrested 360 people, 176 of those being in the last three months. They went undercover online where Sheriff Chronister says conversations were shocking.

"The individual was asking 'Can you reaffirm the age of your daughter?' 'Yes, she's 14 years old.' 'Thank you. She's too told for me,'" said Chronister.

Over the course of the last year, investigators have rescued eight victims, many of whom are minors.

"What we are seeing are more criminal organizations getting involved. It's not just step fathers, it's not just dads, it's not just ex-boyfriends. Now we are seeing some gang members," said Sheriff Chronister.

"Over the last year we have seen a great increase in the requests that come to us to care for the little girls that have been recovered from child sex trafficking," said Laura Hamilton with an organization that helps child victims called Bridging Freedom.

Hamilton says the issue is getting worse.

"It really is a challenge to provide beds and services for the kids who really need it," said Hamilton.

She says adults should keep an eye out for unusual behavior.

"The child goes from having nothing to a cell phone and having nice finger tips. And nice clothes, or maybe their grades go from high or average to missing school a lot," said Hamilton.

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