Project Rose targets Valley sex trafficking

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- A two-day special sex trafficking operation, “Project Rose,” aimed to help nearly 100 people picked up off the streets of Phoenix.

The two-part operation focused on arresting traffickers and offering the victims of trafficking a special diversion program.

Police brought dozens of women to Bethany Bible Church over the span of Thursday and Friday.  Once inside, they received information about resources available, ranging from medical care, mental health, crisis counseling and housing options.

“I’m like a host here,” said Sabrina White, a survivor of sex trafficking.  “I greet the women, and I walk them through the process.”

White knows the pain of a lifestyle she endured for nearly 30 years.

“I was 16 when I first started,” said White. “I was raped several times, beaten several times.”

White managed to escape the world of sex trafficking through a program she wants others to know about.  Project Rose, now an annual event, is a joint effort by Phoenix Police, ASU School of Social Work and Phoenix Prosecutor’s Office. It offers a diversion program to those picked up in a two sting operation.

“We use our own officers to go out and solicit to see if that is in fact what they’re doing.  If it is, and we determine probable cause for their arrest, then we arrest them, and instead of taking them to the revolving door of jail, in, out, back on the street, we have this great program to offer to them,” said Officer James Holmes of Phoenix Police.

“We have about a 33 percent success rate.  A lot of people will say that’s not really a lot, but you’re talking about 33 lives out of 100 that we’ve actually saved that’s not gone back into the streets,” said Officer Holmes.

Sabrina White is one of those success stories. She’s now returned to school and volunteers in her spare time. She credits the Dignity Diversion program, offered through Catholic Charities, for helping to save her life.

“I would probably be dead now; I’m almost sure, if I had stayed out there any longer,” said White.

Phoenix police tell 3TV this year they noticed an increase in needs for medical care and crisis counseling.  As part of the operation, police gain intelligence and information about sex trafficking in the region.