– Law enforcement authorities rescued 105 children and arrested 150 pimps and other people in the largest child sex-trafficking crackdown in US history, the FBI said.
Authorities used social media websites and classified advertisements as they set up the sweep, according to Ron Hosko, an assistant director for the FBI. The three-day operation covered 76 cities and included 230 federal, state and local law enforcement groups, he said.
“Sex-trafficking among children remains one of the most prevalent, violent and unconscionable crimes in this country,” Mr Hosko said.
“Those who exploit children should know that we, this team, will continue to seek them out and to bring them to justice. We are trying to take this crime out of the shadows and put a spotlight on it.”
Previous operations have targeted major sporting events, such as the NFL’s Super Bowl and the NCAA’s Final Four basketball tournament. Multiple children have been recovered from those events in the past, Mr Hosko said.
“We see a gathering of people with excess money and interested in the festivities and frolic that go around high-profile sporting events, and this seems to be a part of that,” Mr Hosko.
The operation was the seventh of its kind as federal and state law enforcement authorities have increased their focus on child sex-trafficking in recent years, and it included seizures of drugs, money, cars and guns worth about $US165,000 ($180,000). The youngest child recovered was 13, Mr Hosko said.
The July 26th-28th operation, known as “Cross Country”, was undertaken as part of the FBI’s “Innocence Lost” initiative. Since 2003, that effort had resulted in the recovery of more than 2700 children, the FBI said.
Drew Oosterbaan, the chief of the US Justice Department’s child exploitation and obscenity section, said a range of laws were being used to prosecute the individuals arrested.
Over the course of the initiative, authorities had obtained more than 1350 convictions, the FBI said.
The rescued juveniles, meanwhile, face a hard road of recovery from what officials say can be a common history of sexual, emotional and physical abuse. Nearly all of the prostitutes rescued this past weekend were female. “This is a particularly vulnerable population,” Mr Oosterbaan said.
Many of the teenagers caught up on the sex trade come from broken homes, officials say.
Mr Hosko said the pimps may recruit their prey relatively gently, using compliments and rewards, but then will use violence and drugs to keep the juveniles in line.
Apart from sporting events, customers are often found through online advertising. While popular US classified website Craigslist doesn’t include “escorts” listings, rival Backpage still does – Phil Mattingly




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