Advertising

The Seattle Times Company

NWjobs | NWautos | NWhomes | NWsource | Free Classifieds | seattletimes.com

Local News


Our network sites seattletimes.com | Advanced

Originally published Monday, February 23, 2009 at 12:30 PM

Print

10 child prostitutes rescued in Washington state during nationwide sweep

Police and federal agents have rescued 10 child prostitutes and arrested 35 people in Western Washington as part of a nationwide sweep aimed at curbing the sexual exploitation of children, according to the FBI.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Police and federal agents have rescued 10 child prostitutes and arrested 35 people in Western Washington as part of a nationwide sweep aimed at curbing the sexual exploitation of children, according to the FBI.

Nationwide, "Operation Cross Country III" took 48 child prostitutes into protective custody and police and agents in 29 cities — including Seattle, Everett and Tacoma — arrested 571 people for investigation of a number of state and federal charges involving the domestic trafficking of children for sex.

"We continue to pursue those who exploit our nation's children," said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. "We may not be able to return their innocence but we can remove them from this cycle of abuse and violence."

Special Agent Robbie Burroughs of the Seattle office of the FBI said most of those arrested here will face state charges, although three individuals arrested for pimping child prostitutes could face more serious federal charges.

Seattle-area police in recent years have noted an increase in the number of juveniles forced to work as prostitutes. The problem has become so acute that State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, and Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata have pushed for legislative funding to help juvenile prostitutes get mental-health services, vocational training and funding for housing.

FBI Special Agent Tarna Derby-McCurtain of the bureau's Tacoma office is a member of a newly formed task force in Western Washington aimed at rescuing child prostitutes and prosecuting the pimps and procurers who lure them into the lifestyle.

She said the Department of Justice expedited the formation of the task force here after seeing a "trend of both victims and pimps being sourced out of Washington." It met first in Pierce County in 2007 and since has obtained at least three indictments against men accused of luring teenage girls into sexual slavery.

"They go to malls. They're on MySpace," she said. "They go wherever young people gather," where they prey on young girls with low self-esteem. "We see both throwaway kids, and kids who are middle-class."

The ones lured into prostitution wind up on the "West Coast track," traveling on a sex circuit that ranges from Vancouver, B.C. to Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Derby-McCurtain said.

She said there's no easy answer to the question of why Western Washington seems to attract both young victims and those who exploit them.

"It's what we ask ourselves as well," she said. "We're just not certain."

But the data, she said, is clear and the new task force is targeting the problem, emphasizing the arrests of the pimps and getting help for their victims.

advertising

Last year, a new law went into effect in Washington that toughened the penalty for adults convicted of forcing juveniles into prostitution. In the past, suspects accused of coercing underage girls into prostitution were most often charged with first-degree promoting prostitution, also a felony.

Unlike promoting prostitution, anyone convicted of commercial sexual abuse of a minor has to register as a sex offender.

The FBI has trained law enforcement agencies and provided resources to target the exploitation of children, beginning with the Innocence Lost Project started in 2003. Since then, local task forces have recovered 670 children, according to an FBI news release.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

More Local News headlines...

Print      Share:    Digg     Newsvine

Comments
No comments have been posted to this article.


Get home delivery today!

More Local News

UPDATE - 09:46 AM
Exxon Mobil wins ruling in Alaska oil spill case

NEW - 7:51 AM
Longview man says he was tortured with hot knife

Longview man says he was tortured with hot knife

Longview mill spills bleach into Columbia River

NEW - 8:00 AM
More extensive TSA searches in Sea-Tac Airport rattle some travelers

Advertising

Video

Marketplace

Advertising