Santa Barbara – When thinking of hotbeds of the illicit sex trade, Santa Barbara’s beaches and iconic Mission architecture, and the thousands of international tourists they attract weekly—including many senior citizens and young families—don’t really leap into mind.
But that may soon change with the arrests over the preceding several weeks of no less than seventeen individuals suspected of participating in organized activities characterized by Santa Barbara Police Department Public Information Officer Sgt. Riley Harwood as “human trafficking.” According to Harwood, the SBPD Vice Unit has made a series of arrests related to prostitution and pimping conducted “through the use of fear, violence, and manipulation”, wherein so-called “pimps” force female victims “to work as prostitutes.”
The SBPD Vice Unit’s objective in its ongoing investigation has been to identify unwilling participants in the local sex trade, particularly those who may be minors. Harwood reported that illegal sex activities are conducted through various advertising mediums throughout the county, and detectives routinely used the same methods to identify prostitutes, their pimps, and their customers. Throughout the current and recent investigation, SBPD efforts were augmented by the work of the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Maria Police Department, and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
With all that law enforcement power behind the crackdown, Harwood named those recently caught in the human trafficking sweep: Manuel Gabriel, Jorge Armando Robles, Jeremiahs Carachure Rosales, Isaiah Dave Kendall, Frank Edward Arredondo, Oscar Jiminez, Javier Almazan-Nava, Roberto Elias Valadez Mendez, Zhenyan Lan, Sieh Cheng Chang, Stephanie Marie Venters, Paulette Doloris Robinson, Chuntel Rene Peterson, Ashlee Nichole Steen, Brianna Michelle Hilton, Michele Rosa Serratos Becerra, and Stephanie Lynn Shelton.
Apparently, law enforcement efforts in fighting the illicit sex trade are hardly over, as Harwood declared “further enforcement action can be expected.”
Photos: Courtesy Santa Barbara County Jail Booking
Independent: Police arrest prostitutes, customers