On Monday, July 29, 2013, the FBI completed their 7th sweep of Operation Cross Country since its creation and partnering with the Innocence Lost National Initiative in 2003. Collectively, the operation has “resulted in the identification and recovery of more than 2,700 children who have been sexually exploited (FBI.gov).” This three-day recovery was performed nationwide where FBI units across 76 cities rescued 105 sexually exploited children, arrested 152 pimps, and other similar individuals. The high volume of children being victimized exemplifies just how prominent and unattended this issue is. “The investigations and subsequent 1,350 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including 10 life terms and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets (FBI.gov).”
Assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division Ron Hosko stated, “child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America. This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere and that the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable (cbsnews.com).” San Francisco showed the highest results with 12 children rescued and 17 pimps arrested. In second, Detroit with 10 children rescued and 18 pimps arrested (FBI.gov).
Special agent Kurt Ormberg explained that most of the victims in these situations have a “void in their lives” leading them to the pimps who claim they will take care of them. The void can be a result of problems at home, poverty, or a list of other causes. These children feel as though they have no other option because they have no one else to turn to for help.
The following is a video of the raw FBI footage of the recent 72-hour sweep.
In the above footage you can see the reality of street prostitution, as these undercover cops act as average men with intentions of buying the women. They are not afraid to meet in very public places from street corners, to motels or restaurants. Unfortunately, it is entirely too common. FBI.gov shared a real life story of a 21 year old woman name Alexandria they recently recovered. Alex is a victim of child sex trafficking who saved herself after contacting the FBI for help. She says about trafficking, “it happens everywhere, it could be your neighbors next door.”
Alex was yet another survivor who left home at age 16 and found herself with no one to turn to. She ended up in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend who was the reason she entered the sex trade. After two years under the ownership of her pimps, she contacted the FBI and was rescued. From her bravery and participation, her pimps were arrested, and other underage victims were saved as well. She said she was very lucky to walk away and without the help of the agency she probably would have ended up dead.
Alex is now living on her own, and plans to attend college. She has earned her high school diploma and wants to become an advocate for young victims of sexual exploitation. There are endless stories just like hers that are still in the making or unheard. We are thankful for movements such as Operation Cross Country that bring to light just how crucial this issue is.