SAN FRANCISCO — An annual effort to rescue victims of child prostitution and draw attention to the problem of sex trafficking culminated in the arrests of four pimps and the recovery of two victims in the Bay Area, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children announced Wednesday.
Between Oct. 12 and Sunday, authorities across the United States arrested 120 suspects and rescued 84 victims as part of Operation Cross Country, now in its 11th year.
There was a greater focus this time around on pimps, particularly those involved in the trafficking of minors.
“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested — and the number of children recovered — reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work.
“This operation isn’t just about taking traffickers off the street. It’s about making sure we offer help and a way out to these young victims who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of abuse.”
Locally, the FBI partnered with 22 agencies including the San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco police departments; the Santa Clara, San Mateo and Marin county sheriff’s offices; and the Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Alameda county district attorney’s offices.
In addition to arresting or citing four pimps and recovering two victims, authorities in the Bay Area also contacted, arrested or cited 27 women for prostitution; arrested or cited 12 male johns; and arrested five men for solicitation of a minor, according to the FBI.
The victims who were rescued — a woman and a 17-year-old — are receiving services from agencies dedicated to assisting trafficking victims, according to the FBI. The women involved in prostitution who were contacted during the operation also were offered services.
In Denver, a 3-month-old girl and her 5-year-old sister were recovered after a friend who was staying with the family made a deal with an undercover officer to sell both children for sex in exchange for $600, according to the FBI.
“Child sex trafficking is happening in every community across America,” said National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CEO John Clark in a statement. “We are working to combat this problem every day,” he said, adding that his agency is “proud to work with the FBI on Operation Cross Country to help find and recover child victims.”
The operation is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which began in 2003 and has resulted in the identification and recovery of more than 6,500 children and the prosecution of traffickers, more than 30 of whom have received life sentences.
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