US child prostitution a 'persistent threat'

2013-07-30 12:00
Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, speaks during a news conference at FBI headquarters in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, speaks during a news conference at FBI headquarters in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington — The FBI declared that child prostitution is a "persistent threat" in the US as the agency announced that authorities had rescued 105 young people and arrested 150 alleged pimps in a three-day sweep in 76 cities.

The agency said it had been monitoring Backpage.com and other websites as a prominent online marketplace for sex for sale. Backpage.com said that it was "very, very pleased" by the raids and that if the website were shut down to the advertisements, the ads would be pushed to sites that wouldn't co-operate with law enforcement.

The young people in the roundup, almost all of them girls, ranged in age from 13 to 17.

The largest numbers of children rescued in the weekend initiative, Operation Cross Country, were in the San Francisco Bay and Detroit areas, along with Milwaukee, Denver and New Orleans. The operation was conducted under the FBI's decade-long Innocence Lost National Initiative. The latest rescues and arrests were the largest such enforcement action to date.

"Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across the country," Ron Hosko, assistant director of the bureau's criminal investigative division, told a news conference. "We're trying to put this spotlight on pimps and those who would exploit."

In Operation Cross Country, federal, state and local authorities co-operated in an intelligence effort aimed at identifying pimps and their young victims.

Social media

The FBI said the campaign has resulted in rescuing 2 700 children since 2003. The investigations and convictions of 1 350 individuals have led to life imprisonment for 10 pimps.

In their efforts to identify child victims, investigators seek help wherever they can find it — in some cases from adult prostitutes, Hosko said. He said almost all the victims in sweeps like the one over the weekend are girls and that the profiles of the victims cut across racial lines.

Social media are a common denominator in many of the rescues.

Last year, five members of the Underground Gangster Crips contacted teens at school or through Facebook, DateHookUp.com or other online social networking sites, enticing the girls to use their looks to earn money through prostitution.

As for websites, Liz McDougall, the general counsel for Backpage.com, said that if that site were shut down to the advertisements in question, the information that can lead to the rescues would be lost to law enforcement because the ads would be pushed to "offshore unco-operative websites".

"We feel very strongly that we're doing the right thing, and we're going to continue to do the right thing and we congratulate the FBI and everybody with the task forces involved in the programme," said McDougall.

Escalating threat


Hosko said the plight of the young people often goes unreported to authorities because the children in many instances are alienated from their families and are no longer in touch.

Pimps operate wherever vulnerable potential victims can be found. Some are being recruited right out of foster care facilities, Hosko said.

For the past decade, the FBI has been attacking the problem in partnership with a private group, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

John Ryan, the head of the centre, called the problem "an escalating threat against America's children".

The Justice Department has estimated that nearly 450 000 children run away from home each year and that one-third of teens living on the street will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.

Congress has introduced legislation that would require state law enforcement, foster care and child welfare programmes to identify children lured into sex trafficking as victims of abuse and neglect eligible for protections and services.

Read more on:    us  |  prostitution

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.