In a collaborative measure between the FBI, state and local law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children this past June, 79 children were rescued and 104 pimps were arrested. The operation encompassed a three-day attack on child sex trafficking that stretched across 57 cities in the nation.
This was the sixth Operation Cross Country conducted by the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative.
Innocence Lost National Initiative: Task Force
There have been 47 Innocence Lost Task Forces which have recovered over 2,200 children and have arrested 1,017 pimps and their associates. These arrests have resulted in long sentences; some pimps have been sentenced to 25 years up to life in prison. Additionally, law enforcement has seized more than $3 million in assets from the human trafficking criminals.
Victims and Pimps
Chart showing the number of children and pimps apprehended by city during Operation Cross Country VI.
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What happened to the buyers?
The information released by the FBI does not address any investigation into the “buyers” of sex with minors. The Operation was focused on victims and pimps. However, DEMAND/buyers are an issue that Shared Hope International believes must be addressed in stings such as this. The men who pay for sex with minors, or the “market-fuelers” of domestic minor sex trafficking need to be arrested and prosecuted along with the pimps. It is, of course, illegal to pay for sex with a child yet the buyers often get away with nothing more than a fine, if arrested at all. This practice must stop and be replaced with harsher penalties if sex trafficking is to be eliminated in the United States.
Without buyers buying the “product” the industry itself would cease to bring profit and children will no longer be sold for sex.
What happens to the victims?
There are a handful of shelters in the U.S. specifically designed for victims of sex trafficking where they can receive protection, restorative care and education. However, the need greatly outweighs resources. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) takes the responsibility for offering counseling and assistance to these children so they can adjust back to normal life. However, Ernie Allen of NCMEC says that many of the rescued children could go back to their traffickers; “these kids are really damaged…it is not only important that they get help – but they need a specialized kind of help.”
Following Operation Cross Country, Ernie Allen and FBI acting executive assistant director Kevin Perkins called for an increase in comprehensive social services. Allen told a story from an earlier Operation Cross Country, “I was called by a prosecutor who said, ‘I know I’m not supposed to lock her up but my domestic violence shelters won’t take her, the runaway shelters won’t take her so I have no choice but to put her in secure detention for her own protection.” Allen says he hopes that America is waking up to the need for restorative and secure care for these victims.