Hundreds of Arrests in Houston Sex Trafficking Sting

Undercover officers from the Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff’s Department joined forces over the last two months in order to execute “Operation Traveling Circus,” which has resulted in hundreds of arrests to date. Authorities arrested a total of 121 alleged “johns” and 19 alleged prostitutes in Harris County during a three week period that coincided with the NFL play-offs, ending on Super Bowl Sunday. The goal of the operation was to identify arrest “johns,” or men who were seeking to pay women for sex, in an attempt to reduce the demand for prostitution in the Houston area. Officials indicate that many prostitutes are victims of sex trafficking, a trade for which Houston is a large hub.

Operation Traveling Circus is part of a larger national program that originated in Cook County, IL, i.e., the National John Suppression Initiative. Football fans may remember the questioning of Denver Broncos player Ryan Murphy in connection with a San Jose undercover sting. Ultimately, law enforcement officials cited Murphy’s brother for solicitation, but not Murphy. Nonetheless, the Denver Broncos sent Murphy home on February 2nd and did not permit him to participate in the Broncos’ Super Bowl win.

Allegations related to sex trafficking can be extremely serious and lead to both federal and state criminal charges. The Texas legislature amended several state laws just last year that made the prosecution of human trafficking and forced prostitution crimes much easier, as well as child trafficking crimes. As a result, whether charged on the state or federal level, a conviction for offenses related to sex trafficking has severe consequences.

The Cogdell Law Firm is a boutique law firm focusing on large, complex business and criminal financial-related litigation, including white collar criminal defense, securities fraud, health care fraud investigation, criminal appeals and state criminal defense. When you need dedicated legal advice and counsel in a Texas criminal case, contact Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244, email us at, or fill out the online form located here.