Sex trade sting nets 15 arrests

HARLINGEN — Police arrested 15 men in a large-scale prostitution sting over two days.

The operation was conducted Friday and Saturday in the Gutierrez Park area.

Undercover officers were approached by the suspects who solicited or agreed to engage in a sex act for compensation, police said in a statement released yesterday.

All 15 men were arrested immediately after the solicitation and taken to the Harlingen Police Department for processing, the statement said.

They range in age from 19 to 55. Twelve are from Harlingen, two from La Feria and one from Los Fresnos.

Solicitation of prostitution is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine up to $2,000.

Police said they used audio and video in the operation.

The sting was concentrated near C and D streets and Van Buren Avenue.

Police said the sting was conducted in response to citizen concerns.

The operation was made possible by funding from a Texas Border Star grant, which assists law enforcement agencies in battling organized crime, trafficking of women, men, children and immigrants who are often forced into the sex trade, police said.

“This operation focused on those who by their participation as customers perpetuate this crime, its victims, the families of the victims and the families of the suspects who they return to,” the statement said.

Police Chief Jeffry Adickes said, “Harlingen is a destination city in the Valley that values quality of life for families and individuals where they can live without crime, or the fear of crime in a clean and safe community.

“We will continue these efforts to support those community values as we serve this great city.”