Men soliciting prostitutes arrested in undercover sting in Santa Ana

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- An undercover sting operation took place in Santa Ana Wednesday night, where police officers targeted men soliciting prostitutes.

One undercover officer disguised as a prostitute walked along Harbor Boulevard and was solicited by a driver in a white SUV. Officers nearby then followed her and the man to a hotel. She then led the man to a room where officers were ready to arrest him for soliciting a prostitute.

But what makes this one bust different is that the man left his 1-year-old and 5-year-old sons in the car. Police were working to get the two children into the custody of a family member while their father was taken to jail.

"Obviously this is child endangerment and it is extremely disturbing," Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.

The felony arrest is part of what is called a "John" bust. The operation was conducted by the Santa Ana Police Department and the Orange County District Attorney's Office. The goal was to catch and prosecute people who participate in the buying and selling of sex and to get those people off the street.

"For us and the city it's a quality of life issue. We get continuous complaints for the people that live in this neighborhood," Bertagna said.

Officers also came across real prostitutes who were cited and warned. It is part of an ongoing effort to address the larger issue of human trafficking.

"These girls are being worked when they're 13 years old. They're being exploited by people who take 100 percent of their proceeds," said Susan Schroeder with the district attorney's office.

Many of the people busted Wednesday night will be charged with misdemeanors and released. The police department and the district attorney's office plan to continue the operations.

"It's important to make sure that we are protecting girls and children who are going to be exploited," Schroeder said.
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