On the morning of Friday, July 31, Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson spoke with the media about his agency’s latest prostitution/human trafficking operation - known as “Operation Summer Heat.” In just a few hours, the Alamance Sheriff’s Office - in conjunction with the Mebane Police Department and the State Bureau of Investigation - arrested a total of 21 individuals for an array of prostitution and drug offenses.
“This operation is an ongoing effort for us to try to identify and arrest those individuals who are involved in prostitution and human trafficking here in Alamance County and North Carolina,” Sheriff Johnson explained. “During a daylong operation of approximately eight hours, 21 people were arrested for soliciting prostitution and drug-related offenses involving prostitution.”
Johnson added that he was “amazed” at just how many were arrested in such a short period, adding that if it weren’t for an officer-involved shooting in Roxboro that required the assistance of his agency, the arrests likely would have been doubled.
“I’ll be honest with you - I think the biggest eye-opening experience that I have had is the amount of victims that are developed by our own in-country people. These “Johns,” what we call the Johns - if we can curb the demand, we can certainly curb the supply. But there’s so much money being made - $150 billion a year off work in human trafficking and sexual exploitation. We have got to increase our awareness. We have got to work with our courts to have stiffer penalties on the individuals that take these girls and traffic them.
“It was amazing (to see how many were arrested so quickly),” added Johnson. “And I can tell you this - we had planned to have a second day of this operation. But because of the (officer-involved shooting) situation in Roxboro, we had to send a lot of our people to partner with them. We probably would have had 50 (arrests in a two-day operation). But we had to cut it off.”
In addition to 18 individuals who were arrested for one count of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, three were arrested for drug offenses in addition to prostitution. Bernis Clester Spain II of Raleigh was arrested for felony possession with intent to distribute/deliver Schedule I heroin. Landon Keith McDaniel of Stanly County was arrested for felony possession of Schedule II methamphetamine as well as misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, while Earl Wallace of Burlington was arrested for felony possession of marijuana with intent to sell and deliver.
There was one individual with a Mebane residence arrested - 55-year-old Cameron G. Burleson, who was charged with one count of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution. Burleson, like the others charged with the solicitation count, were released on a written promise to appear in court.
“Why is this important to you, Sheriff?” Johnson asked rhetorically to the media. “First of all, we know that a lot of our human trafficking victims (who) get involved in prostitution are working for a pimp. And he or she gets them on heroin, methamphetamine, or other drugs to control them. And I think that is why I think that is interesting here.”
“An even more interesting fact is these people come from all over the state - from different counties way east and northeast. It’s amazing. That just tells me - this operation is very troubling to me, because in less than ten hours, we were able to arrest 21 people. They were coming from all over the state of North Carolina here to Alamance County,” the Sheriff continued. “This can only be indicative of how bad the problem of prostitution and human trafficking has become in this nation and in our state. We are seeing young women and young men’s lives being destroyed. All I can say is wake up, America. This is your country. These is your kids, your daughters, that are getting involved in this. This is a multi-million dollar industry. As a matter of fact, recent statistics show it’s a $150 billion industry- second only to drug trafficking in this nation. And when we talk about human trafficking, we’re talking about sexual trafficking, as well as workforce human trafficking.”
Johnson added that undercover social media work played “a big part” in the investigation.
“There are different places you can go on the internet and social media to find and get dates with these guys or girls, or whatever,” he said. “It’s done every day. Thousands are done. One guy we got a cell phone from, several hundred phone calls had been made to girls. Our people, (along with) Mebane Police Department and the SBI, we’ve been looking at it for several weeks to put this on. It was not something that was done overnight.”
“We’re still investigating behind every one of these people,” Johnson continued. “And we will continue until we reach a dead end. If there are human trafficking charges that can be made federally, or state, we will certainly do it. We are going to follow up on every lead we’ve got on any one of these arrests to try to determine what part they are playing in this situation. The people in North Carolina need to know what’s going on in their neighborhoods.”