WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 100 children victimized through prostitution were recovered during the past 72 hours, as the FBI; its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners; and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) conducted Operation Cross Country VII, a three-day enforcement action to address commercial child sex trafficking throughout the United States.
The operation included enforcement actions in 76 cities across 47 FBI divisions nationwide and led to the recovery of 105 children who were being victimized through prostitution, officials announced today. Additionally, 159 pimps were arrested on state and federal charges.
According to U.S. Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa (R-NJ), the FBI said that at least 70 arrests took place in New Jersey as part of the operation.
“Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere, and the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable.”
“Human trafficking is a crime that exploits and hurts some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including children. I commend the FBI’s work on Operation Cross Country and their ongoing focus on this problem,” Chiesa said. “I am especially proud of the role the New Jersey law enforcement community played in this operation, as well as their continued recognition and efforts to identify and combat this heinous crime. Our police and prosecutors understand the prevalence of this scourge and they recognize the need for an ongoing focus.”
Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative that was established in 2003 by the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Department of Justice and NCMEC, to address the growing problem of child prostitution.
“Operation Cross Country demonstrates just how many of America’s children are being sold for sex every day, many on the Internet,” said John Ryan, CEO of NCMEC. “We’re honored and proud to partner with the FBI, which has taken the lead in tackling this escalating problem.”
To date, the FBI and its task force partners have recovered more than 2,700 children from the streets. The investigations and subsequent 1,350 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including 10 life terms and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets.
Task force operations usually begin as local enforcement actions that target truck stops, casinos, street “tracks,” and websites that advertise dating or escort services, 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 frequently uncovers organized efforts to prostitute women and children across many states. FBI agents further develop this evidence in partnership with U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section so that prosecutors can help bring federal charges in those cities where child prostitution occurs.
The Innocence Lost National Initiative brings state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and social service providers from across the country to NCMEC for training.
The FBI thanked the its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners representing more than 230 separate agencies who participated in Operation Cross Country VII and their ongoing enforcement efforts.
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