On Monday, in a massive sting operation across the country, the FBI arrested 104 alleged pimps from 57 cities and rescued 77 girls and two boys who were held against their will and forced into prostitution. The teenagers, all U.S. citizens, were between 13-17 years of age. They were controlled by organized sex-trafficking rings. The rescues and arrests were made from all possible places including hotels, storefronts and truck stops.
According to Kevin Perkins, the acting executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch, the cases were not “one-off” incidents, but hard proof of “criminal enterprises” that lured in minors. According to the FBI, minors are mostly approached through social media and then held against their consent by threats to them or to their families. After the initial abduction, the minors are trafficked to different U.S. cities through well-established networks.
Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children told the media that, “People in this country believe it is only a problem that happens somewhere else.” But according to Ernie, child prostitution is “a problem that happens in all kinds of American cities and it happens to American kids.”
According to the NCMEC at least 100,000 minors are victims of child prostitution and trafficking each year, but proof is difficult as crimes are under-reported and there are other data complications with regard to sensitive data of minors.
The FBI program was launched in 2003 and till date, under the program, at least 2,200 teenage U.S. citizens have been rescued. However, this number reflects only the efforts of this particular project of the FBI and does not take into account the thousands rescued each year by individual states and local investigation agencies.
One of the minors rescued has admitted to the FBI that she had been forced into prostitution and trafficked when she was only 11 years old.