Federal agents and local law enforcement arrested 281 alleged sex traffickers and took 168 children out of prostitution in a nationwide crackdown on the sex trade last week, reports the Wall Street Journal. Federal agents and local law enforcement fanned out across the U.S. to set stings, try to convince low-level offenders to cooperate and act on intelligence they had been gathering for months in an effort to find child prostitutes and arrest the people exploiting them, FBI Director James Comey said yesterday. The youngest child recovered was 11 years old. “These are not faraway kids in faraway lands,” Comey said. “These are our kids, on our street corners, our truck stops, our motels, our casinos. These are America’s children.”
The arrests were part of the largest operation in a series that the FBI has been coordinating since 2003. They aim at a sex industry that officials said increasingly uses the Internet for every facet of its business, including recruitment of women and girls and managing prostitutes. Many of the children recovered had family lives that were tenuous. Others had been abused or neglected and ran away from home, said John Ryan of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Many hadn’t been reported missing. Some 10 percent were in child-welfare systems, which often aren’t required to report when a child disappears, making them more vulnerable to pimps because no one comes looking for them.