FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Florence County Sheriff's Office led an undercover prostitution sting overnight Thursday.
WMBF News rode along for the exclusive video of the five-hour operation.
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Narcotics investigators from both FCSO and the city of Florence narcotics division conducted the operation. It swept through the entire I-95 and Highway 52 corridor stopping at multiple hotels. A total of nine arrests were made. The males were charged with solicitation of prostitution and the females were charged with prostitution.
"A lot of people think this is a victimless crime, well it's not. It has a complete deleterious effect across society and it's no more evident at these locations where the hotel owners ask us to help them, so this is a citizens complaint and we are glad to help them," said Major Mike Nunn with the Florence County Sheriff's Office.
The team works the prostitution sting both ways. Half of the narcotics investigators are part of the travel team who go from hotel to hotel who are there to round up the females who are advertising themselves for sex. The other half is set up in a "safe room" at one of the hotels, and an undercover female narcotics investigator poses as a prostitute in the adjoining room who then waits for the men who are soliciting sex. There is a monitor set up in the safe room to watch the interaction. Once the exchange of money for sex occurs, which is heard over a radio system as well, the investigators then arrest the suspects and are transported to the Florence County Detention Center.
Nunn said prostitution is alive and well in our community. "You'll find drugs, guns, illicit money and a lot of heroin is trafficked through prostitution and its tragic situation so we are trying to combat that as well," he said. "It brings all other social and societal ill wherever it goes."
There is not one exact geographical designation of where prostitution is; Nunn explained and I-95 and Hwy 52 is midway between New York and Miami and with the high amount of hotels. He said unfortunately it winds up being the scene of a lot of issues like prostitution and drugs.
"Especially when you have areas where there are a lot of transient travelers moving up and down the interstates and major roadways and there is even a possibility to find human trafficking in these types of situations, so we take this very seriously,' Nunn said.
The prostitution stings are at least temporarily doing some good, Nunn added, and the embarrassment of the suspects being caught in it will help get it off the streets. "We hope it's a deterrent and people will think twice before engaging in these types of activities," he said.
A website known for advertising prostitution and the keyword Florence is one way the undercover investigators find the suspects who advertise their availability.
FCSO and City of Florence Police narcotics divisions will continue to conducts these prostitution stings periodically.
Tune in to WMBF News tonight beginning at 4 p.m. for the full story and see more exclusive video from the undercover operation.