Yesterday, the FBI announced the latest coordinated child prostitution sweep had concluded. The announcement
was made at a press conference at the agency's Washington headquarters.
Operation Cross Country VI was conducted in 57 cities throughout the United States, including Atlanta, Denver, and Toledo, Ohio. The operation involved members of the FBI, local law enforcement agencies, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
reports the children, 77 girls and 2 boys, ranged in age from 13 to 17. One girl told authorities she has been engaged in prostitution since she was 11. All 79 are American citizens. Ernie Allen, president of NCMEC, is quoted by Reuters
as saying child prostitution "is a problem that happens in all kinds of American cities and it happens to American kids. People in this country believe it is only a problem that happens somewhere else."
FBI Acting Executive Assistant Director Kevin Perkins, is quoted by CBS News
as saying children are enticed into prostitution by pimps giving them gifts such as cell phones or providing food and shelter. Many of these pimps have ties to organized crime. Perkins said, "They are told, you can be killed and we can injure your parents. Just like any kind of a hostage, they're being held against their will."
Perkins told the media at the press conference,
[Child prostitution] is a violent and despicable crime and we are working with our partners to disrupt and put behind bars individuals and members of criminal enterprises who would sexually exploit children.
The Innocence Lost National Initiative
was formed in June 2003 and is operated by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice, and NCMEC. There are currently 47 dedicated task forces, manned by officials at all levels, across the U.S. to combat child prostitution. To date, more than 2,100 children have been rescued and more than 1000 convictions have been obtained of pimps, madams, and associates involved in child prostitution.
The rescue of a child prostitute does not ensure that the child will not end up back on the streets.