Over the past 72 hours, the FBI, its local and state law enforcement partners, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) concluded Operation Cross Country IV, a three-day national enforcement action as part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative. The operation included enforcement actions in 36 cities across 30 FBI divisions around the country and led to the recovery of 52 children who were being victimized through prostitution. Additionally, 691 others, including 60 pimps, were arrested on state and local charges.
“Child prostitution continues to be a significant problem in our country, as evidenced by the number of children rescued through the continued efforts of our crimes against children task forces,” said Kevin Perkins, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “There is no work more important than protecting America’s children and freeing them from the cycle of victimization. Through our strategic partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies, we are able to make a difference.”
Task Force operations usually begin as local actions, targeting such places as truck stops, casinos, street “tracks,” and Internet websites, based on intelligence gathered by officers working in their respective jurisdictions. Initial arrests are often violations of local and state laws relating to prostitution or solicitation. Information gleaned from those arrested often uncovers organized efforts to prostitute women and children across many states. FBI agents further develop this information in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and file federal charges where appropriate.
To date, the 34 Innocence Lost Task Forces and Working Groups have recovered nearly 900 children from the streets. The investigations and subsequent 510 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including multiple 25-years-to-life sentences and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets.
“It is repugnant that children in these times could be subjected to the great pain, suffering, and indignity of being forced into sexual slavery for someone else's profit,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, “but Cross Country IV has shown us that the scourge of child prostitution still exists on the streets of our cities. The FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and all the state and local law enforcement agencies that contributed to this operation are to be commended for their dedication to this cause. We will all continue to work tirelessly to end the victimization of innocent children.”
In the spring of 2003, the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Department of Justice’s CEOS and NCMEC, formed the Innocence Lost National Initiative to address the growing problem of children forced into prostitution.
“Child trafficking for the purposes of prostitution is organized criminal activity using kids as commodities for sale or trade,” said Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “These kids are victims. They lack the ability to walk away. This is 21st century slavery. We are proud to have worked hand-in-hand with the FBI and Justice Department in a partnership that is unprecedented, historic, and working.”
This program brings state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and social service providers all from around the country to NCMEC, where the groups are trained together. In addition, CEOS has reinforced the training by assigning prosecutors to help bring cases in those cities plagued by child prostitution.
The FBI thanks the 1,599 local, state, and federal law enforcement officers representing 112 separate agencies who participated in Operation Cross Country and ongoing enforcement efforts.
The charges announced today are merely accusations, and all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.