Sting focuses on people using social media to pick up prostitutes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- An undercover prostitution sting leads to the arrest of nearly a dozen women in east Memphis.

From the streets to cyber world, police officers are parking the patrol cars and logging on the computer to stop prostitution.

"Facebook for sale pages are trying to tell you how much they’d be willing to barter with you for an old desk and you can do the same thing to pay for a person," said Rachel Haaga who works with Restore Corps Memphis.

"If you go to backpage.com you can buy a lawn mower, a bicycle or a person for sex," she added.

That’s exactly what prompted a sting at the Hampton Inn on Poplar.

The Organized Crime Unit set its sights on targeting people using social media to buy sex.

Last week’s sting led to the arrests of nine girls ranging in age from 18 to 24.

Investigators said the girls agreed to meet at the hotel and sleep with people they connected with through social media.

"Buyers don’t realize they are engaging for the purchase of a person and not someone’s property," added Haaga.

At the start of this year, the  Tennessee Bureau of Investigation used a similar approach, posting fake ads on social media websites and going after those who clicked on the ads. More than 400 buyers were uncovered in that sting.

The new wave in technology may make things more accessible, but it doesn’t appear to reduce to risk of getting caught red handed.

Restore Corps partners with the city and the county to help girls break away from a life of prostitution.

Many of the girls arrested in stings are connected with the organization in hopes of giving them a new outlook on life.