Monday, in a 72 hour FBI investigation, 150 pimps were arrested from a nation-wide sex trafficking operation that involved 76 U.S. cities. Investigators report that 105 children were recovered, including the youngest victim, 13 years old, from Birmingham, AL. That victim was one of three from the state.
Thanks to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Innocence Lost Initiative, Operation Cross Country, and many organization and initiatives like these, sex traffickers, pimps, and madams are being brought to justice. The Innocence Lost Initiative reports rescue of more than 2, 700 sexually exploited children since 2003. They have also brought down 1,300 pimps and madams. While strides are being made, there are also some barriers that come along with putting an end to sex trafficking in the United States from one unlikely source. The very system put into place to keep children safe and off the streets may be the one place that unknowingly aids in the facilitation of sex trafficking.
John Ryan of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in cooperation with Operation Cross Country says the sting has opened doors for discovery of how juveniles end up in such horrid circumstances. With 70 to 90 percent of the children being sexually abused previously and knowledge that 60 percent of foster care and group home are runaways, pimps portray protectors, making these juveniles easy prey.
With minimal family support children in foster care can easily become victims. The raid, supported by 4,000 local, state, and federal officials, proved point, as some victims are lead into prostitution right out of foster care. After leaving the foster care system, there is little to no monitoring done. Sadly, some of the time when children are returned to group homes after a rescue, they recruit other juveniles into the circumstances they left, continuing the cycle of sex trafficking.
With so much divisiveness around the country, Ron Hosko of the FBI Investigation Division makes a valid point, stating, “Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America. This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere, and the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable.” This operation that involved the work of many officials and organizations and recovered children from Atlanta to Las Vegas should remind all citizens that no city or state is immune to the dangers that can befall all children.
Written By: Kimberly M. Scott