A “harrowing” picture of the seamy world of child prostitution is emerging from a nationwide crackdown that has produced 543 arrests and 94 convictions, says USA Today. Women have told investigators they started working as prostitutes for a suburban Chicago man when they were 16 and 17. “So what? Some of my best girls were minors,” he is quoted in an FBI affidavit. The case here is part of “Innocence Lost,” a project launched in 2003 by the Justice Department. The FBI set up 14 task forces in cities with the most reports of child prostitution; now the task forces are in 27 cities.
“Innocence Lost’ will continue. A Justice Department official says: “When I see cases cropping up in places like Harrisburg, that suggests that the problem is more pervasive than people might think.” Norma Hotaling of the SAGE Project in San Francisco, which counsels victims, once got calls only from large cities asking for help creating programs for former child prostitutes but now hears from small cities.