Sixteen teenage prostitutes were rescued during an FBI operation aimed at disrupting sex trafficking during the Super Bowl that led to the arrests of 45 pimps and their associates, the bureau announced Tuesday.
“High-profile special events, which draw large crowds, have become lucrative opportunities for child prostitution criminal enterprises,” Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said. “The FBI and our partners remain committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and putting those who try to profit from this type of criminal activity behind bars.”
The teen prostitutes ranged in age from 13 to 17 years old and included high school students and children who had been reported missing by their families, the FBI said. The operation lasted six months.
“Through partnerships, enhanced as a result of this operation, we hope to build a lasting framework that helps the community address this problem,” Michael Harpster, chief of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Section, said. “It’s easy to focus on this issue in light of a high-profile event, but the sad reality is, this is a problem we see every day in communities across the country.”
The operation was part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, a program started in 2003 by the FBI, U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The program was founded to address child prostitution.
Some of the pimps and associates arrested in connection with prostitution tied to the Super Bowl said they traveled to New Jersey from other states specifically to prostitute women and children at the Super Bowl. The NFL championship game was played Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.