By Aaron Blevins, 6/28/2012
Hundreds of FBI special agents partnered with thousands of local police officers, deputy sheriffs and state troopers and other law enforcement personnel throughout the U.S. last week, arresting those responsible for exploiting underage children through prostitution.
The sixth iteration of Operation Cross Country, a three-day law enforcement action, led to the recovery of 79 children. Additionally, 104 pimps were arrested by local and state law enforcement on a variety of prostitution related charges.
In the Los Angeles Division of the FBI, five minors were recovered and placed in protective services. One individual was arrested on charges involving the pimping of a minor. Other individuals were either cited or arrested for criminal activity related to prostitution.
“Child prostitution remains a major threat to children across America,” said Kevin Perkins, acting executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch. “It is a violent and deplorable 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.”
Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative that was created in 2003 by the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Department of Justice and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), to address the growing problem of domestic child sex trafficking in the United States.
To date, the 47 Innocence Lost task forces and working groups have recovered more than 2,200 children from the streets. The investigations and subsequent 1,017 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including eight life terms and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets.
Task force operations usually begin as local enforcement actions, targeting such places as truck stops, casinos, street “tracks” and the Internet, based on intelligence gathered by officers working in their respective jurisdictions. Initial arrests are often violations of local and state laws relating to prostitution or solicitation.
Information gleaned from those arrested often uncovers organized efforts to prostitute women and children across many states. FBI agents further develop this information in partnership with U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and file federal charges where appropriate.