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Bellevue police blown away by undercover sex sting

KOMO photo.

BELLEVUE, Wash. - More than 100 people were arrested Friday afternoon following an eight-day prostitution sting in Bellevue.

“Operation On Demand” targeted online sex buyers in King County and is the largest operation of its kind, investigators said.

The sting occurred in the north end of downtown Bellevue and involved more than 60 officers.

As part of the sting, police set up a fake brothel inside a downtown condo. They say they were blown away at the number of arrests they made.

“We were probably getting several dozen hits on several ads at any one time,” Captain Marcia Harnden with the Bellevue Police Department said. “We had people circling the area, the address.”

The buyers searching for sex paid money to undercover officers posing as prostitutes.

110 people were caught and arrested, Harnden said. The youngest was 22-years-old. The oldest was 65.

“They range from an unemployed heroin user and all the way up to a radio DJ and some people who are vice presidents of companies, high-tech workers,” Harnden said.

Robert Beiser is with Seattle Against Slavery, an anti-trafficking organization that focuses on local victims and survivors of sex and labor trafficking.

“The violence is real,” Beiser said. “We work with survivors who tell us stories that you’d never want to hear.”

Beiser said he’s been following the latest developments and applauds law enforcement for cracking down on those people trying to buy sex.

“Every time that someone goes to buy sex from a stranger online, they’re running the risk of putting money in the pockets of traffickers and pimps,” Beiser said. “That means violence and harm for the people in prostitution.”

And while police say they’ve taken some offenders off the streets, Beiser says there is help for those who need it.

“There are services and support that’s available,” Beiser said. “Organization for Prostitution Survivors run a 10-week program where men can talk about the challenges they’re having about buying sex and learn how to stop.”

Some of the people who have been arrested were charged in court Friday. Many of them will face misdemeanor charges for “patronizing a prostitute.” Some of these people will also face extra charges because they are repeat offenders.

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