Law enforcement authorities rescued 105 children and arrested 150 pimps and other people in the largest child sex-trafficking crackdown in U.S. history, the FBI said.
Authorities used social media websites and classified advertisements as they set up the sweep, according to Ron Hosko, an assistant director for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The three-day operation covered 76 cities and included 230 federal, state and local law enforcement groups, he said at a news conference today in Washington.
“Sex trafficking among children remains one of the most prevalent, violent and unconscionable crimes in this country,” said Hosko, the assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division. “Those who exploit children should know that we, this team, will continue to seek them out and to bring them to justice.”
Previous operations have targeted major sporting events, such as the National Football League’s Super Bowl and the NCAA’s Final Four basketball tournament. Multiple children have been recovered from those events in the past, Hosko said.
“We see a gathering of people with excess money and interested in the festivities and frolic that go around high-profile sporting events, and this seems to be a part of that,” Hosko said.
The operation was the seventh of its kind as federal and state law enforcement authorities have increased their focus on child sex trafficking in recent years, and it included seizures of drugs, money, cars and guns worth about $165,000. The youngest child recovered was 13 years old, Hosko said.
The July 26-28 operation, known as “Cross Country,” was undertaken as part of the FBI’s “Innocence Lost” initiative. Since 2003, that effort has resulted in the recovery of more than 2,700 children, the FBI said.
Drew Oosterbaan, the chief of the Justice Department’s child exploitation and obscenity section, said a range of state and federal statutes were being used to prosecute the individuals arrested.
Over the course of the initiative, authorities have obtained more than 1,350 convictions, the FBI said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Phil Mattingly in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org