As news broke the FBI arrested 150 people in a massive sex trafficking raid, it was also sadly reported that 100 children were rescued in the course of the bust.
The FBI arrests, 150 in total, were a part of a sting known as Operation Cross Country. Coordinated as the name suggests, suspected perps in 76 cities were taken into custody as 105 victims were also liberated from what the Bureau says was ongoing forced prostitution.
While the numbers are staggering, Operation Cross Country is actually the seventh such major bust the FBI has undertaken to battle the ongoing issue of child sex trafficking — and in the course of all the investigations, more than 2,700 children have been rescued.
The numbers are certainly depressing in spite of the positive development, and FBI Criminal Investigative Division assistant director Ron Hosko said:
“Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America… This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere and that the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable.”
The 150 FBI arrests yesterday were actually part of a larger effort within the bureau. The Innocence Lost National Initiative has been ongoing for ten years, and kids — mostly girls — between the ages of 13 and 17 were saved during yesterday’s coordinated arrests.
Of the 76 cities involved San Francisco, Detroit, Milwaukee, Denver and New Orleans netted the largest number of rescues overall.
As the scopes of the crimes progress, the law enforcement offices involved use new investigative tools to help find and save girls forced into prostitution. Hosko says the teens were from all races and wealth backgrounds, and the FBI used Facebook, Backpage, and other social sites in part to locate the girls and boys.
Liz McDougall, the general counsel for Backpage.com, said that the site’s hosting of adult ads prevents predators from moving to “offshore uncooperative websites.”
“We feel very strongly that we’re doing the right thing, and we’re going to continue to do the right thing and we congratulate the FBI and everybody with the task forces involved in the program.”
As the FBI arrests 150 suspected child sex traffickers, another scary statistic is cited by the Department of Justice. Nearly half a million teens run away from home each year in the US — and one third are lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of being on the street.