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100+ kids rescued from forced prostitution

July 29, 2013 11:40:33 AM PDT
Dramatic nationwide raids rescued more than 100 children from forced prostitution. Los Angeles was among 76 U.S. cities targeted in the three-day sweep.

It was the nation's largest recovery of child prostitutes, according to the FBI. Undercover agents carried out "Operation Cross Country VII" in 76 cities over the weekend.

A total of 105 sexually exploited teenagers were taken off the streets, and 150 pimps were arrested. The largest numbers of teen prostitutes rescued were in San Francisco, Detroit and Milwaukee.

The FBI worked closely with state and local law enforcement agencies, including the LAPD and the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

"This operation targeted venues where girls and adults are operated for commercial sex," said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division.

Hosko said those locations included truck stops, city streets, motels, casinos, Internet sites and social media platforms.

Since 2003, the FBI has worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to locate 2,700 children who were sexually exploited. Officials say traffickers prey on runaways who feel they have nowhere else to turn.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 60 percent of the young victims identified in "Operation Cross Country VII" had been in foster care or group homes before running away and being lured into prostitution.

The FBI says 25 percent of prostitutes began working when they were teenagers. It's a statistic law enforcement hopes to reduce. But authorities say some of the girls rescued may be reluctant to cooperate with investigators because they either think they're in love with their pimp or fear more physical abuse.

In Los Angeles, two juveniles were recovered, and three pimps were arrested. In San Diego, five juveniles were recovered, and six pimps were arrested. In San Francisco, 12 juveniles were recovered, and 17 pimps were arrested.

The FBI says underage prostitutes were between 13 and 17 years old. Authorities also recovered drugs, cash and guns.


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