Washington: The FBI announced Monday the arrests of 150 people and recovery of 105 children involved in child prostitution rings across the country.
The 76-city sweep, conducted in the past three days, represents the largest such law enforcement action focused on children forced into sexual slavery, federal authorities said.
Assistant FBI Director Ron Hosko, head of the bureaus criminal division, said the children ranged from 13 to 17 years old. The youngest of the victims was allegedly being offered up by her father, who also was allegedly involved in videotaping his daughters sexual encounters.
“We have victims whose new normal is sexual abuse,” Hosko said. “We are trying to take this crime out of the shadows and put a spotlight on it.”
In operations involving 230 separate law enforcement agencies, authorities either made arrests or child recoveries from Atlanta to Los Angeles. The weekend action, called Operation Cross Country, also is the latest in a national campaign that has helped recover 2,700 children since 2005.
Hosko said the children, generally recruited from foster care or group homes, were being offered up on Internet sites, at truck stops, casinos and street corners.
In addition to at least one parent, the alleged pimps included individuals acting alone and some with affiliations to organized crime. In many cases, Hosko said, the children “do not see any avenues of escape” from their handlers.
John Ryan, president and chief executive officer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, called the criminal activity “an escalating threat against Americas children.”
Ryan said the law enforcement action “is saving lives.”
The largest number of children 12, were recovered in San Francisco during the weekend sweep. The most alleged pimps 18, were arrested in Detroit.
In the Detroit area, where 10 children were recovered, a 17-year-old girl was rescued Saturday night from an Econolodge Hotel, where she was being held against her will and beaten. Police said a separate prostitution arrest yielded information that led police to the hotel.
In Flint, Mich., a 911 call led police to a home where they rescued two 17-year-old girls who were being assaulted and forced into prostitution. Genessee County sheriffs deputies responded and rushed the girls out of the home. A suspect, whose identity has not yet been released, was arrested.
Criminal charges are expected to be brought both in the state and federal courts and will involve a variety of offenses, including human trafficking and coercion.