Aurora cop describes sex trafficking sting as ‘gut-wrenching’
It wasn’t all that long ago – 18 months, maybe two years – that Sgt. Alfredo Dean got a call from a woman in Virginia asking questions about human sex trafficking in the Fox Valley.
According to this caller, Virginia officials had identified this as a growing problem among gangs in that area, and she was curious if Aurora law enforcement was seeing a similar trend.
Dean, a police officer with Aurora Police Department’s Special Ops group, was surprised by the call. He didn’t have all that much to tell her because “in my 20 years” in law enforcement, “I’d not come across it.”
But he promised to keep his eyes open.
Last week, Deane led a six-week undercover sting operation that led to the arrest of eight men for allegedly soliciting underage children for sex.
“It was my first time taking a stab at it,” said Dean, who has worked undercover on narcotics and gangs at the local, state and federal levels the past 10 years. “Before all this, I had not paid a lot of attention to human sex trafficking.”
The operation came out of a team sit-down, where the Special Ops officers asked themselves what they could do to better protect the community. That’s when their attention focused on human sex trafficking, which has been getting more attention lately as law enforcement, social workers, even politicians have begun conversations about what has been called “a dirty little secret” in many communities.
In October, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren sponsored a forum on the topic at the Kane County Government Center that featured a panel of FBI agents, social workers and representatives from task forces set up to deal with this crime that’s been growing, in part, because of the prevalence of social media.
In the past, Aurora police had enjoyed successful partnerships with federal agents, and so, this Special Ops group teamed up with Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations to try and crack down on human trafficking throughout the city.
“We were willing to try it,” he said of the sting operation. “Fortunately – or unfortunately, it’s been successful.”
The eight men charged with arranging to have sex with minors at an Aurora hotel come from Aurora, North Aurora, Oswego, Chicago, Hanover Park, Pennsylvania – and included those “young and old, from all nationalities and financial backgrounds,” noted Dean.
“They look like your average next door neighbor,” he added.
Dean called the undercover assignment “mentally draining” and “the most gut wrenching” police work he’s ever done. And that’s not because of the long hours and days on the sting that began in December.
“Working narcotics and gangs,” he says, “I was always able to check work at the door and never take it home with me. But this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You sit at the computer and interact with these people and see what they are trying to do and what they are asking these young kids to do … you want to take a shower.”
If you think human sex trafficking isn’t a problem in your community, you’ve not been paying a whole lot of attention.
On a global scale, I learned at last fall’s forum there are an estimated 29 million victims, more so than any other time in human history. Human trafficking is more lucrative than dealing drugs or guns because it’s an endless profit stream. But the laws aren’t nearly as stiff as drug penalties. Which is why legislators are beginning to get involved, and why law enforcement is continuing to ratchet up efforts to address this problem.
As mentally draining as the sting operation was, said Dean, “it was well worth it.”
His eyes have not only been opened, the Aurora officer has quickly become an expert on this dirty little secret.
Human sex-trafficking “hits at the core of our community,” Dean said. “I hope to continue more of these.”