POLICE have shut down what is believed to be a sex ring, and rescued 19 Latin girls as young as 15 and as old as 19 who were allegedly being held captive for the purpose of sex trafficking.
Police conducted raids in several places between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, including Westmoorings, St James, Ariapita Avenue, Diego Martin, and Morne Coco Road, with top cop Gary Griffith spearheading the operation with his Special Operations Response Team (SORT) and including officers of the Western Division, Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU), Financial Intelligence Bureau (FIB) and the Child Protection Unit (CPU).
Aside from rescuing the young girls believed to be from South America, police also seized a quantity of narcotics and sums of local and foreign currency.
Up to press time, police had arrested 18 people of Asian and South American ethnicities, in relation to the alleged sex ring.
Yesterday, more raids were conducted in Curepe, where police officers raided two Asian-based business. One business was a restaurant and another was a casino, both of which were located across the street from each other in Curepe.
From as early as 9 am yesterday SORT officers were seen working in tandem with other police divisions and conducting searches of the two businesses. Eyewitnesses said they saw police trying to enter the restaurant first, and after talking to some people, they went over to the casino.
One patron of the casino said he was shocked to see camouflaged and masked police officers storm the business place, holding high-powered weapons and wearing heavy tactical armour.
“I really don’t know what was happening, but I was inside the casino and they ran into the place. I don’t even know who opened the gate but the next thing in knew it was guns in my face.
The police tell me to drop everything then they put me and the other patrons to sit on the ground. After a while they said “who wanted to go,” and let most of us go. The police held back a few people one of them was a Venezuelan girl and a cashier. I got out of there as fast as I could after that.”
Newsday was told, in the Curepe raid, police seized over $1 million in cash, both in local and foreign currencies, and arrested eight of the 18 people held in the ongoing exercise.
Commissioner Griffith told Newsday in an earlier interview that the sex ring was something he intended to destroy and implored the public to speak up if they saw any suspicious activity. Griffith cited his cellphone number, 482-GARY, if people did not feel comfortable calling their local police station, or 800-TIPS.
Alana Wheeler, head of the Counter Trafficking Unit also made an appeal to the public to say something if they saw something.
“Please if you identify any young women, particularly young migrants who are in a place that they ought not to be, please refer them to the relevant agencies. Sometimes they are too afraid to come forward even in this environment. Some of them being drugged and forced to do things they would not want to do,” Wheeler said. “Please give us the information so we could rescue these girls and give them hope for their lives.”
FIB ASP Wendell Lucas pleaded with land owners to be mindful of the people to whom they leased property.
In a video on the TTPS twitter page, Lucas revealed the girls were stashed in several places leased to the traffickers by land- and home-owners.
“Have some idea as to what is going to be taking place in those homes,” Lucas said.
Police said via the media release the girls were being processed by both the Counter Trafficking and Child Protection units, and translators were brought in to ascertain from them if they were being held against their will.