National Prostitution Sting Seizes 69 Child Prostitutes and 99 Pimps

Liz De La Torre

The agenda was forty cities across thirty states in three days. No, this was not a typical road trip. On Nov. 4, the FBI set out on a nationwide prostitution undertaking with the Department of Justice, local police, and child advocates in a combined effort called “Operation Cross Country V” to stop human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. Authorities staked out casinos, rundown city streets, and truck stops as well as browsed websites and chat boards for suspected prostitution activity that would allow for undercover agents to act as possible clients. The following Monday, 69 children, who range in age from 12 to 17, were removed from prostitution, and 885 others including 99 suspected pimps were arrested.

Twenty-four child prostitutes were found in and near Seattle, making it the largest group of child prostitutes in a single city, according to the FBI. Other areas where prostitutes were discovered include Portland, South Florida, Washington, D.C, and finally, the Chicago, Naperville, and San Francisco Bay areas which occupied the next highest numbers of child prostitutes. According to FBI executive assistant director Shawn Henry, child prostitution recruits are generally interested in runaways looking for a “responsible adult” or kids who may be implicated in or affiliated with drug activity. “There are groups of people out there preying on naïve kids who don’t have a good sense of the way of the world,” Henry said. “Sometimes there’s a threat of force, threats of violence. A lot [of] these kids operate out of a sense of fear.”

The FBI is currently working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to establish the identities of the child prostitutes. For now, depending on physical, mental, and emotional evaluations conducted by NCMEC, the children are either being taken into protective custody or released to their families. “These kids are victims. This is 21st century slavery,” Ernie Allen, president and CEO of NCMEC, said. “This is a growing problem, and America needs to wake up to it and do more.”