Criminal Justice

FBI arrests 159 alleged pimps in nationwide crackdown on teen sexual exploitation

The FBI, working with local authorities, has arrested 159 alleged pimps in a three-day nationwide operation combating the sexual trafficking of teens, the agency announced on Monday.

The operation, dubbed Operation Cross Country VII, led to the rescue of 105 teens, some as young as 13, who will be placed in foster or group homes, report the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor and the Daily Beast. The FBI has information in a press release.

Ron Hosko, the assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigations division, told the Times that the teens who worked as prostitutes won’t be charged. “We are not going to charge child victims of prostitution with prostitution,” he said. “We regard them as victims, as they were not able to make a choice for themselves. The goal is to break the cycle so they can rebuild their lives.”

Investigators track down pimps by initially focusing on places such as truck stops and casinos, as well as websites that advertise dating or escort services. Prostitution arrests lead to information about organized efforts to prostitute women and children across state lines.

Operation Cross Country is part of an initiative established in 2003 to address the growing problem of child prostitution. Since then, about 2,700 children have been rescued and 1,350 convictions obtained.

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