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11 arrested for sex trafficking and child exploitation in St. George

Parked police cars.
Ryann Richardson
St. George News
11 men were arrested in early November for sex trafficking and child exploitation. DSU Police officials call for more online awareness, especially for minors.

In early November, eleven suspects connected with sex trafficking and other sexual explotation crimes were arrested in St. George. Dixie State University Chief of Police Blair Barfuss was a crucial part of initiating the federal investigation.

Barfuss, who is cross-deputized to work with the FBI on federal investigations, said his agents set up a plan to lure in suspects by communicating with them online while pretending to be minors.

“We have multiple agents and task force officers that proactively go onto social media platforms and other internet, web-based programs, and just start monitoring and checking out messaging platforms,” Barfuss said.

Barfuss said there are certain words and signs that agents look for when monitoring messages online that indicate suspicious activity.

Although St. George is a small town that is considered very safe, Barfuss said that is a huge misconception that can lead to danger. Locals should always have their guard up and remember to communicate on social media platforms safely.

“There’s not an area or location that is safe from crime, including human trafficking and child exploitation," Barfuss said. "A lot of time those who are looking to commit this kind of crime or do this kind of criminal behavior look for communities similar to St. George, where it is typically quiet and peaceful.”

Through proactive police work, human trafficking and sex crimes specifically against children, can be stopped. Barfuss credited his team for doing a thorough job throughout the investigation.