- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - An undercover program designed to snare those who sexually exploit young people for money is showing signs of success, according to Tulsa Police Department detectives.

Authorities say a growing number of suspected sex traffickers have been identified by law enforcement and hauled into Tulsa federal court.

“You can go fishing every day, and you might catch a trophy bass twice a year,” Sgt. Todd Evans said of the Police Department’s online efforts to detect those who are offering children as prostitutes.

The Tulsa World reports (https://bit.ly/1dBiARW ) that just last week, a 47-year-old man pleaded guilty to a charge of using a telephone to attempt to coerce a female he believed to be 17 years old to engage in prostitution.

A 28-year-old man was charged in December with sex trafficking of a child. He has pleaded guilty to failing to register as a sex offender when he came to Tulsa in July.

U.S. Attorney Danny Williams Sr. said prosecuting the crimes “is a big priority in our district.”

“We’re really being aggressive about it,” Williams said.

The term “human trafficking” can refer to acts to compel or coerce various sorts of labor or services, but many of the cases filed in federal court center on forcing people - often minors - to engage in commercial sex acts.

Evans said discovering the illegal activity is becoming more challenging for investigators. He said traffickers are becoming more cautious online as they attempt to avoid detection by law enforcement agencies while maintaining contact with actual, paying clients who are seeking encounters with underage prostitutes.

Pimping children is seen as safer than the illegal drug trade by some criminals, he said.

“If you are caught with … cocaine, you are going to jail,” Evans said. “If you are seen driving around with a 15-year-old girl, most people aren’t going to be suspicious.”

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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