Northern Kentucky was targeted as part of Operation United Front, a cross-state human trafficking carried out last week by 29 law enforcement agencies across Kentucky.
Twenty-one victims were rescued, including two minors, and 46 people were arrested or cited, Governor Andy Beshear said on Wednesday. All local arrests and subpoenas included solicitation of prostitution, with a handful of additional drug possession charges including the 17 from the northern Kentucky counties and the others from surrounding counties in Ohio and Indiana.
The 12-state trafficking operation, led by the Missouri Attorney General and the Missouri Highway Patrol, is believed to be the first multistate operation of its kind, the governor said.
Kentucky conducted four concurrent human trafficking operations in Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, McCracken County, and Northern Kentucky. The Kentucky State Police (KSP) organized and directed the Commonwealth’s efforts.
“Operation United Front is a great example of creating a better and safer Kentucky free from this heinous crime,” said Beshear. “Thank you to all law enforcement agencies and organizations involved for rescuing these victims and bringing these heinous perpetrators to justice. Unfortunately, this crime is happening in every county, in every community across the Commonwealth, but we will continue to fight to make the lives of all Kentuckers, especially our children, better and safer. “
Officials in the participating states rescued a total of 59 victims, provided 41 medical care and arrested 102 suspects nationwide in connection with human trafficking. Each state conducted its own operations concurrently while sharing information with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri Attorney General. Prior to the operation, Missouri provided participating states with training and information on how to conduct these operations.
“Operation United Front has been a success because of the hard work and dedication of all law enforcement agencies who have worked together,” said KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr. “This sends a message to traffickers across the country that their actions will not be tolerated. We will be vigilant when it comes to finding those who hunt our most vulnerable, especially our children. While we as law enforcement are responsible for investigating the cases and arresting those involved, there is an entirely different dynamic in these cases and that is the care provided by the victim services.
In addition to KSP, several Kentucky agencies supported the Commonwealth’s efforts in Operation United Front and contributed to the overall success.
These agencies include: the 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; Grayson’s Sheriff’s Office; Greater Hardin County Drug Task Force; Hart County Sheriff’s Office; Homeland Security Secret Service; Homeland Security Investigation, Louisville; Kenton County Police Department; Kentucky Attorney General’s Office; LaRue Sheriff’s Office; Lawrenceburg Police Department; Marshall County Sheriff’s Office; McCracken County Police Department; Nelson Sheriff’s Office; Paducah Police Department; Radcliff Police Department; US Secret Service; Shepherdsville Police Department; Simpson County Sheriff’s Office; South Central Kentucky Drug Task Force; Warren County’s Drug Task Force; and Police Department of Western Kentucky University.
Additional organizations provided victim support services, including medical care, accommodation, meals, and other necessary services. Aid agencies included the Barren County Area Child Advocacy Center, Catholic charities, the Department for Community Based Services, Kentucky State Police Victim attorneys, Northern Kentucky Children’s Advocacy Center, Women’s refuge, Southeast Christian Church, Salvation Army and Cincinnati Salvation Army.
“What is unique about Operation United Front is that we took a victim-centered approach,” said Detective Rugina Lunce, coordinator of the KSP Task Force on Human Trafficking. “All parties involved have worked together to give victims the help they need to give survivors a chance to start over.”
The Kentucky Office of Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigation and Human Trafficking Investigation Unit directed the McCracken County operation and assisted the Warren County operations.
“We know that human trafficking extends beyond county and state borders, and transnational efforts like Operation United Front are essential to addressing the human trafficking crisis in our communities,” said Attorney General Daniel Cameron. “Every arrest results in one fewer traffickers on our streets and sends a message that we will not allow anyone to be exploited through labor and sex trafficking. I am incredibly grateful for the collaboration and partnerships shown during this operation, and I sincerely thank law enforcement agencies across Kentucky who have worked tirelessly in conducting Operation United Front. “
This story has been updated to remove the names of the locals charged with this operation. This list is available from the state, but after it was established that the usual local indictment was incitement to prostitution, a misdemeanor, RCN made the editorial decision to remove the list of names. The specific charges that the arrested or cited people faced were not originally recorded by the state.