Prostitution and human trafficking are industries that are thriving all over Tennessee, even right here in Knoxville.
"It's very difficult to know exactly what the scope of the problem is here in Knoxville. But we do know it exists. Even last week there was a raid in which 17 people were arrested in regards to child sex trafficking," said Jonathan Scoonover, president of the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking in Knoxville.
In East Tennessee, eight women were arrested for prostitution, four women were arrested for promoting prostitution, two women were arrested for human trafficking, and three men were cited for solicitation. The 17 arrests were part of a nationwide initiative to address the growing problem.
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"It's bittersweet that we've had the largest arrest numbers and recoveries because that goes to show how widespread the crime is," Monica Miller, FBI Sacramento Special Agent said.
FBI Knoxville said in a statement that: "Sex trafficking of children is a serious and troubling offense, and it will not be tolerated. We are fortunate to work with dedicated and capable local, state, and federal law enforcement partners as we address this threat. "
Last year, state lawmakers passed a law that established a human trafficking task force. It encourages law enforcement to work alongside non-governmental services to combat the problem.
"We are trying to equip law enforcement to work with the social service sector to provide a unified response to this issue of human trafficking here locally. The law helps with that, but we are trying to further that process along," Scoonover said.
Law enforcement believe the recent sex trafficking sweep shows how important it is for everyone to work together.
"We want to especially thank the Knox County Sheriff's Office, Hamilton County Sheriff's office, Chattanooga Police Department, Red Bank Police Department, and Homeland Security Investigation-without them, this operation would not have been possible," FBI Knoxville Agent in Charge Timothy Slater said in a press release.
Groups said lawmakers have made great strides in finding a solution to the problem, but there is still a lot of work to go.
"Working together is an example of what a community can do when they're united to stand up against this issue," said Scoonover. "It's not the first time that something has happened in East Tennessee and unfortunately it won't be the last either."