The St. Joseph Police Department made six arrests in connection to prostitution Friday.
Police, with the assistance of human trafficking organization Break Every Chain Coalition, conducted a sting operation to address the demand for prostitution within the community, according to a press release.
Christi Miller, president of Break Every Chain, was present during the operation that ran from around 2:30 p.m. until late in the evening.
“(Friday) night was a sting operation to track demand on human trafficking, so we had undercover police officers,” Miller said. “And then we track how many calls and then how many buyers, or we call them johns, showed up.”
Six arrests were made for patronizing prostitution, which is against city ordinance. Authorities didn’t say where the arrests took place but said the operation was conducted in the area of U.S. Highway 169 and Interstate 29.
Subjects arrested during the operation include Jason Schakel, Dominic Mack, Mohammad Saqib, David Rader, Terrance Turner and Paul Kennon.
Additionally, one investigation arrest was made for various charges.
Break Every Chain has been in existence for about five years and works to educate people about human trafficking with the ultimate goal to prevent it. Miller was present during the operation to talk to alleged buyers.
“The intent for their evening was so different than how it ended, so there’s a lot of emotion in the room,” she said. “You can tell they’re listening, but they’re not really responding. I do think that they hear it.”
Miller said the vast majority of prostitution is linked to human trafficking and akin to modern-day slavery.
“We have a misconception of what prostitution is, and I really hate to even use that word because, most of the time, they’re sexual abuse victims. There’s really not a prostitute. The only way you can be a prostitute is if you sell yourself. Once there’s a second person using force, fraud or coercion, we now have victims. And that is almost always the case,” she said.
Miller said that’s what she tells alleged buyers, something they might not have realized.
“It’s our way of explaining it to those who buy one-on-one what it is,” Miller said. “So they understand that they’re actually engaging in modern day slavery, and I think that that is hard for them to swallow. And I think it’s a good way to educate, prevent for the future.”
Break Every Chain referred subjects arrested during the operation to counseling.
“If there is something like sex addiction, we understand that. We’re not out trying to hurt every family. Some of them are married, so we know that there’s some devastation going on,” Miller said. “It’s a tough thing all around. But I think it sends a loud message to the community that we don’t want it to happen here.”