With the assistance of nonprofit agencies End Slavery Tennessee and Second Life Chattanooga, the undercover operation conducted this week also identified potential victims of trafficking.These women were offered services provided by the nonprofits that include housing, counseling, and addiction treatment.Those arrested and cited for prostitution-related offenses, enhanced because of the location’s proximity to a school, by the Chattanooga Police Department include: The second objective focused on identifying individuals searching for sex with minors online.

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The agencies conducted “Operation Watchful Guardians” in Chattanooga and Dalton, Georgia, with the partnership of the Chattanooga Police Department, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office, the Dalton Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, Second Life Chattanooga, and End Slavery Tennessee.

During the operation, TBI and GBI Agents and Intelligence Analysts conducted simultaneous operations that worked to identify, investigate and prosecute traffickers, online predators, and rescue victims.

According to TBI Director Mark Gwyn, the results of “Operation Watchful Guardians” further demonstrated that partnerships among law enforcement are critical in combating these demand-driven crimes.

“Cooperation is always important in law enforcement, but it is never more important than when we set out to protect children,” said Gwyn.

“This operation gave us an opportunity to share our experience, information and resources, across units, agencies and state lines, to make sure there is no safe place to hide for criminals who would victimize the most vulnerable among us.” The TBI operation had two different angles.

The first involved identifying potential victims of human trafficking, while targeting those attempting to purchase illicit sex.

During that aspect of the operation, 168 different men contacted undercover Agents depicted in three online advertisements.

Agents arrested 16 men attempting to purchase sex from a prostitute.

Agents also arrested four women advertised as prostitutes.

This week’s efforts resulted a gun seizure with armor-piercing rounds, as well as drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Those arrested included persons from four states ranging in age from 25 to 62, some with active warrants and on active probation.