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By Aditya Tejas
FBI conducted a nationwide, three-day long operation, resulting in 150 arrests and over 100 retrieved children.
The children were all aged 13-17, according to Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.
The undercover operation Cross Country took place in 76 cities and involved 230 law enforcement units. Hosko said it was the largest law enforcement activity taken against child prostitution to date, with 28 searches and 129 seizures of cash, drugs, vehicles and firearms. Those arrested face a variety of federal and state charges.
This operation was the seventh iteration of Operation Cross Country, and the most successful. Hosko said they saw a 30-40% increase in identifying both victims and pimps.
Authorities also released a breakdown of the arrests by city. The San Francisco region had 17 arrests and 12 recovered child prostitutes, while Detroit had 18 arrests and 10 rescues. New York City had none of either.
“This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere,” Hosko said.
Operation Cross Country is a part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which aims to identify and help children lured or forced into prostitution and try to remove them from risk.
Hosko said trying to reconnect children with their families and rehabilitating them posed major challenges.
“We have victims whose new normal is abuse and is drug-infected,” Hosko said, talking about the environment in which “the expectation of somebody who cares about them may last for 30 minutes or an hour before the abuse starts again.”