7 Central Nebraska men arrested for solicitation in undercover sting

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - A joint undercover operation has led to seven arrests.

The Central Region of the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force had a successful undercover operation this past weekend. The operation consisted of the Nebraska State Patrol Troop C and the G.I. Police Department.

Men from Cairo, Kearney, Hastings, Bartley, Glenvil, St. Paul and Grand Island were arrested, charged with soliciting commercial prostitution.

Interstate 80 goes from coast to coast and is the second longest interstate in the U.S., making it a hot spot for human trafficking. A recent undercover operation by the trafficking task force put a dent in operations.

Sergeant Ryan Phinney, Nebraska State Patrol Troop C says, "our hope is that if people in Central Nebraska are worried that by taking part in a commercial sex act they may be subject to arrest and that will make them think twice about taking part in that activity."

This is the first time law enforcement in Central Nebraska has targeted solicitors.

"I really believe the law enforcement mindset has changed to recognize those workers as true victims and not just as persons who are just out breaking the law. We don't want to make it punitive or punish them, especially in those cases where they truly are a victim and being held against their will," adds Sergeant Phinney.

Trafficking is considered modern day slavery and some victims may actually live in a normal looking house but their life is anything but.

"Sex trafficking isn't just holding, kidnapping and forcing into a basement, these people are out in public they are interacting but at the end of the day they don't have that freedom of movement, the freedom to communicate. They don't have a bank account, they don't keep their own drivers license or social security card," continues Sergeant Phinney.

If you believe you know of someone who is being trafficked you can call the Nebraska Abuse Hotline at 1-800-652-1999 or dial 9-1-1.

Along with sex trafficking there is also labor trafficking and males as well as females are being trafficked.