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Tennessee Bureau of Investigation operation helps agency better understand human trafficking

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says it placed fake ads for prostitutes and arrested about a dozen people this week as part of an operation to better understand human trafficking in the state.

The eight ads ran for an average of about five hours and got 111 contacts, TBI Special Agent-In-Charge Margie Quin said at a Friday news conference.

The johns arrested ran the gamut from a man with a long criminal record who was carrying a razor blade on a stick in his pants to a pastor who was about to become a father.

Earlier this week, Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill giving TBI jurisdiction over investigations of human trafficking. The legislature earlier approved funding for four special TBI agents who will be dedicated to investigating trafficking. They also will train local law enforcement officers to recognize and combat trafficking.

Quin said trafficking occurs when anyone under 18 years old engages in a commercial sex act. It also occurs when someone over 18 engages in a commercial sex act through fraud or coercion.

"This will be an uphill battle, because what we're really doing in Tennessee is changing the conversation about human trafficking," Quinn said. "It's like domestic violence or drunk driving decades ago. What was once never discussed in public is now a worthwhile cause."

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