A Newsweek story on teen prostitution has come under criticism from a media reviewer, police in Bloomington, Mn., and the Minnesota shopping center known as the Mall of America. The story was summarized on Crime and Justice News on Monday.
Newsweek contended that local and federal law-enforcement officials have noted a marked increase in teen prostitution in cities across the country. It said that “solid numbers are difficult to come by–a government-sponsored study puts the figure in the hundreds of thousands..” and that those involved “are getting younger; according to the FBI, the average age of a new recruit is just 13; some are as young as 9…”
Jack Shafer of Slate.com says the paragraph “doesn’t convince.” If solid numbers are difficult to come by, he says, “what exactly are we to make of the ‘hundreds of thousands’ figure that follows? Is [Newsweek] saying that there are hundreds of thousands of teen prostitutes? Or that there are ‘hundreds of thousands’ more teen prostitutes than there once were? If that’s the case, how reliable is a study that advances such a vague number? Over what period was this ‘government-sponsored’ population study of teen prostitutes conducted? And who conducted it?” Shafer adds that “if kids are getting younger, with the FBI claiming the average age of a new recruit is ‘just 13,’ what was the average age last year? Or two years ago? Do any of these numbers really exist?”
Newsweek said that the Mall of America “is a huge recruiting center” for teen prostitution, where pimps recruit suburban girls by buying them expensive clothes in exchange for sex.
The article quoted an FBI agent. Police in Bloomington, where the mall is located, said they had received no information from the FBI, which did not comment to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The mall said that no arrests have been made for teen prostitution. To deter pimps, the mall has a parental escort policy, two outreach programs and a substation of the Bloomington police. A police spokesperson said, “We take issue with the magnitude of the problem as suggested in the article. We have absolutely no evidence to substantiate that the Mall of America is a huge recruitment center.”