Dario Macieira, Staff WriterLast Modified: 01:02 a.m. DST, 31 July 2013
WASHINGTON − In a three-day nation-wide sweep, members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in conjunction with other local, state, and federal officers, arrested 159 pimps and rescued 105 juvenile victims of forced prostitution. The action, named “Operation Cross Country VII”, has been the largest yet of the bureau’s Innocence Lost National Initiative. For comparison, a similar action in 2012 netted 104 arrests and 79 children rescued.
Ronald Hosko, who one year ago was promoted to the position of Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, spoke to reporters at the FBI headquarters in Washington. In addition to the arrests, the operation included “129 seizures of cash, drugs, firearms… estimated to have a value of $165,000.”
The prostitution sting, which was conducted in cities all across the nation from Miami to Seattle, focused on several different venues for prostitution, both physical and digital, including: truck stops, casinos, motels, internet sites, and social media platforms. Websites such as backpage.com offer easy avenues for the advertisement of sex with children, despite the website’s stated cooperation with police. Raw footage from the operation shows police consulting these websites, including advertisements for escorts around the ages of 20 and 21, who are in fact much younger.
The children that become victims of forced prostitution often come from broken homes and impoverished backgrounds, making them very vulnerable to a pimp’s promises of money or affection. Many pimps began as victims’ boyfriends. Others help girls gain illegal entrance to the United States. Offers and affection the pimps give are quickly used to emotionally control their victims, to isolate them and prevent them from escaping. Some girls do not even come to see themselves as victims, despite the physical and mental abuse they suffer.
Alexandria, as a sixteen year old living on the street, was recruited into prostitution by an abusive boyfriend. At the time she believed she had no other options, remembering, “I called everybody, I need help, I called my family, I called my friends, I called everybody I knew and nobody picked up.” It would take her two years to find the courage to contact the FBI.
Despite the success of recent operations, the number of victims rescued pales in comparison with the number of children at risk of forced prostitution. The National Center for Exploited and Missing Children estimates the number of children annually at risk to be close to 100,000. Many come from states’ foster care systems, and have weak or non-existent ties with their families. Arresting pimps and freeing their victims only treats the symptoms the wider disease. More must be done to help vulnerable children avoid falling victim to sex-trafficking.
- FBI arrests 150 alleged pimps, rescues 105 kids forced into prostitution (csmonitor.com)
- 3 Accused Maryland Pimps Arrested In Nationwide Prostitution Sting (baltimore.cbslocal.com)
- FBI Arrests 150 Pimps and Rescues 105 Children from Forced Prostitution (atlantablackstar.com)