- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2010

Sixty-nine children in 40 cities being used as child prostitutes were rescued over the weekend by a law enforcement task force headed by the FBI, which also arrested 885 people, including 99 suspected pimps.

“Operation Cross Country V,” a three-day national enforcement action as part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, targeted truck stops, casinos, street tracks and Internet websites, based on intelligence gathered by the FBI and its local and state law enforcement partners, along with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

“Child prostitution continues to be a significant problem in our country, as evidenced by the number of children rescued through the continued efforts of our crimes-against-children task forces,” said Shawn Henry, executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch.

“There is no work more important than protecting America’s children and freeing them from the cycle of victimization,” he said. “Through our strategic partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies, we are able to make a difference.”

Twenty-three of the rescued children, all of whom were between 12 and 17, were located in the Seattle-Tacoma area. Others were found in California, Michigan, Illinois and Florida.

The Innocence Lost National Initiative was begun by the FBI in 2003 in conjunction with the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and the NCMEC to address the growing problem of domestic sex trafficking of children in the United States.

In the seven years since its inception, the initiative has resulted in the development of 38 dedicated task forces and working groups throughout the U.S. involving federal, state and local law enforcement agencies working in tandem with U.S. attorney’s offices. To date, more than 1,200 children have been rescued and 625 pimps, madams and their associates who exploit children through prostitution have been convicted.

Multiple 25-years-to-life sentences have been obtained in the cases and more than $3.1 million in assets have been seized.

FBI officials Monday said initial arrests are often involve violations of local and state laws on prostitution or solicitation and that information obtained from those arrested often uncovers organized efforts to prostitute women and children across many states.

That information, they said, is developed further in partnership with U.S. attorney’s offices and CEOS, after which charges are filed.

“The leadership of the FBI and the Justice Department in attacking domestic child trafficking and prostitution is historic,” said Ernie Allen, NCMEC president. “Once again, Operation Cross Country has awakened the nation to the fact that today, American children are being marketed and sold for sex in American cities.

“These kids are victims. This is 21st-century slavery. We are proud to be a part of this extraordinary partnership to rescue children, save lives, and bring the pimps and operators to justice,” he said.

The FBI said more than 2,100 local, state and federal law enforcement officers from 186 separate agencies participated in Operation Cross Country and ongoing enforcement efforts.

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