The law enforcement operation represents the latest effort on behalf of the FBI’s Innocence Lost program, which since its 2003 creation has resulted in the recovery of some 3,600 children who faced sexual exploitation. In addition to arrests and child recoveries operations have resulted in 1,450 criminal convictions, 14 life in prison terms and the seizure of over $3.1 million.
Initial targets have typically included casinos, truck stops and websites advertising escort and dating services, as identified by local law enforcement. The FBI uses the information gathered from these busts to expand their search and to partner with the US Department of Justice and the US Attorney’s Offices to serve those running child-prostitution rings with federal charges.
One woman arrested during the Operation Cross Country sweep said she was just 17 and a half when she got caught up.
The massive anti sex-trafficking push was executed via partnerships between the Bureau and other law enforcement, including local and state police. The FBI currently operates 70 Child Exploitation Task Forces throughout the country.
“The guy said, ‘Oh, I’ll take you home. … We’ll go to the mall first. … He kind of wheeled me into it,” she said. “I was scared.”
“They’re completely indoctrinated,” said an undercover officer in Oakland. “Some of them are in love with their pimps. Some of them, their home lives were so bad, this could be better but it’s not good.”
The underage children are sent to juvenile hall, where police say they get help and most importantly are forced to spend time away from their pimps.
The largest number of recovered minors occurred in Denver. In one instance a 19-year-old man was arrested for physically abusing a 16-year-old runaway after she had failed to collect enough money from her “dates,” reports USA Today. The girl had been taken from one hotel to the next and told to perform sex acts, and was too afraid to escape.
Police say the problem is growing – there are more prostitutes and pimps on the streets than there are officers who can arrest them.
Oakland police eventually ended their sting because they were simply out of manpower.