Federal agents recovered 105 juveniles involved in prostitution and arrested 150 adults allegedly acting as pimps during a three-day nationwide crackdown against child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of children, the FBI announced on Monday.
Arrests were made in 76 cities in a massive operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in concert with 230 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The enforcement action marked the seventh version of Operation Cross Country designed to identify and free children forced into the sex industry.
“This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere,” he said.
Since 2003, the FBI and other partners of the task force have recovered 2,700 juveniles from the streets and won 1,350 convictions for those seeking to profit from the sexual exploitation of children.
"Many victims of child sex trafficking believe there is nowhere to turn for help," said Alex, who was rescued five years ago, then 16, in an earlier FBI crackdown.
“At first it was terrifying, and then you just kind of become numb to it,” she said, in an interview posted on the FBI website. “You put on a whole different attitude – like a different person. It wasn’t me. I know that. Nothing about it was me.”
“Operation Cross Country demonstrates just how many of America’s children are being sold for sex every day, many on the Internet,” said John Ryan, chief executive officer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Federal statistics show the most active operation in San Francisco where 12 juveniles were found and 17 alleged pimps arrested. Detroit was the next most active with 10 children found and 18 pimps charged.
In Milwaukee, agents found 10 juveniles but arrested no pimps, according to the statistics.
In New Orleans, six juveniles were located and six pimps were arrested.
The crackdown focused on areas such as truck stops, casinos, street “tracks,” and websites that advertise dating and escort services.
There are 13 separate federal crimes outlawing the sexual exploitation of children. They include selling or buy of children, sexual trafficking of children by force, fraud, or coercion, and the creation of obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children.