“Operation: Polar Bexar,” a multi-agency crackdown on prostitution in a West side neighborhood, has led to the arrests of 64 people, most of them men, according to Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz.
The sheriff, flanked by San Antonio Police Chief William McManus and other state and federal agents and representatives, announced the results during a news conference Friday morning.
The effort focused on a stretch of Zarzamora between W. Commerce and W. Martin streets and mostly targeted customers of prostitutes, also known as “johns."
Ortiz said undercover officers and deputies, posing as prostitutes, were approached by men.
They then brought the would-be customers to a nearby motel where other officers were waiting to arrest them.
In a nine-hour period last Friday night, 62 men and two women ended up in handcuffs, all facing charges of prostitution, he said.
“Sixty-four in one night certainly indicates that we have a problem, and that’s why we did it,” Ortiz said.
Local law enforcement agencies had received numerous complaints about prostitution from people who live in the targeted area, Ortiz said.
However, he said the problem is everywhere and often involves other crimes, such as human trafficking.
“Of the 60-something that were arrested, 17 of those individuals were here illegally,” said Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge with U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He said once those 17 suspects are prosecuted locally, they’ll be put through the federal process and most likely, deported.
Although Robinette said they found no indication of any human trafficking in this particular operation, the issue remains an ongoing concern to State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who also joined in the news conference.
"I commend the actions of this sting operation to make known that it's not OK to buy sex in our community. It’s not OK to buy sex with a child," she said
Chief William McManus called the effort a “great first step,” but said the crackdowns must continue, and will take more than just actions by law enforcement officers.
“We have to have a holistic approach,” he said, adding that people within the community must also get involved in stopping and preventing prostitution.