A nationwide operation targeting child sex traffickers led to the recovery of 168 child prostitution victims and the arrests of 281 pimps in the past week, the FBI announced Monday.
Dubbed Operation Cross Country VIII, the FBI initiative was a weeklong crackdown on child prostitution in which the bureau and its partners monitored truck stops, casinos, street “tracks” and other places where prostitutes and pimps operate.
“Targeting and harming America’s children through commercial sex trafficking is a heinous crime, with serious consequences,” FBI Director James Comey said in a statement announcing the arrests and the recovery of the child prostitutes. “Every child deserves to be safe and sound. Through targeted measures like Operation Cross Country, we can end the cycle of victimization.”
The FBI’s Denver division recovered the most juveniles in the operation (18) while the Phoenix FBI office netted the most pimps (21), according to FBI data.
“Child sex traffickers create a living nightmare for their adolescent victims,” said Leslie R. Caldwell, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s criminal division. “They use fear and force and treat children as commodities of sex to be sold again and again. This operation puts traffickers behind bars and rescues kids from their nightmare so they can start reclaiming their childhood.”
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Other Operation Cross Countries combined with the latest enforcement action led to the recovery of 3,600 children from the streets and resulted in 1,450 convictions and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets, according to the FBI.
“Operation Cross Country reveals that children are being targeted and sold for sex in America every day,” said John Ryan, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which assisted the FBI in the investigation. “We’re proud to partner with the FBI and provide support to both law enforcement and victim specialists in the field as they help survivors take that first step toward freedom.”