Children rescued in prostitution sting
Federal officials announced Monday that 52 children had been saved and nearly 700 people had been arrested and charged over the past three days in a nationwide crackdown on child prostitution that included arrests in Seattle and Everett.
Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — Federal officials announced Monday that 52 children had been saved and nearly 700 people had been arrested and charged over the past three days in a nationwide crackdown on child prostitution that included arrests in Seattle and Everett.
Officials of the FBI, along with representatives of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and police agencies throughout the country, said the arrests were the results of investigations in 36 cities.
Locally, members of the Pacific Northwest Innocence Lost Task Force recovered nine juvenile prostitutes, one in Everett and eight in Seattle, said FBI spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs. In addition, four suspected pimps and approximately 20 adult prostitutes were arrested in Seattle and Everett during sting operations on Friday and Saturday, she said.
Task-force detectives, who have been gathering intelligence for a couple of years on juvenile prostitutes in the area, "have a variety of ways to go about targeting the victims in these cases," Burroughs said.
They used the Internet and went to motels and to local "tracks" — areas of prostitution where girls and women walk the streets — to recover unsuspecting juvenile prostitutes, "get them out of that system of abuse and hopefully into a safe situation," she said.
The sweep, dubbed Operation Cross Country, is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, started in 2003 to address child-sex trafficking in the U.S.
To date, the initiative has rescued nearly 900 children, led to the conviction of 510 pimps, madams and their associates, and seized $3.1 million in assets, according to the FBI.
Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said the Internet was the "greatest tool" at their disposal, though it cut both ways because the alleged pimps use it to communicate with each other and hunt for victims from the privacy of their homes or motel rooms.
Most of the children recovered through the project have been girls, who usually become victims of traffickers around the age of 12, Allen said. He estimated that 100,000 children are still involved in sex trafficking in the U.S., adding that the problem is growing partly because of the recession.
Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, one-third of runaways are lured into prostitution or pornography, according to research by the Klaas Kids Foundation, a nonprofit established to help find and rescue missing children.
Between 1.6 million and 2.8 million children run away in the U.S. annually, according to the foundation.
Times staff reporter Sara Jean Green contributed to this report.
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