FBI agents this week conducted a three-day sweep to arrest 104 alleged pimps and the 79 child prostitutes suspected to be in their control.
Known as “Operation Cross Country” the sweep took place from Friday through Sunday and involved more than 2,500 officials in 57 cities. State, federal and local authorities worked together as part of the sting.
According to FBI Acting Executive Assistant Director Kevin Perkins the children were 13 to 17 years old.
Perkins says of the children’s situations:
“Many times the children that are taken in these types of criminal activities are children that are dissaffected, they are from broken homes, they may be on the street themselves — they are really looking for a meal, they are looking for shelter, they are looking for someone to take care of them, and that’s really the first approach that’s made.”
Officials warn that being rescued does not mean those children will not turn back to a life of prostitution. The FBI says it will take the effort of local community members, welfare officials, councilors and various other helpers to ensure the girls involved in underage prostitution feel valued and loved.
In one sad case a prosecutor had to make a tough decision, telling a victims workforce:
“I know I’m not supposed to lock her up but my domestic violence shelters won’t take her, the runaway shelters won’t take her so I have no choice but to put her in secure detention for her own protection.’ But our hope is that America is waking up to that.”
Operation Cross Country was yet another sting setup as part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative which was started in 2003. Since that time the FBI has rescued more than 2,200 children and they have convicted more than 1,000 people for exploiting kids.