A nationwide FBI sting focusing on underage victims of prostitution resulted in the rescue of 149 sexually exploited children and the arrests of more than 150 pimps and others, reports CBS News. The ninth annual initiative known as “Operation Cross Country,” the largest to date, was carried out last week in 135 cities including Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Knoxville, Tn., Alexandria. Va., Jackson, Ms., Los Angeles, Portland, Sacramento and Seattle, along with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Local initiatives were coordinated through 73 of the FBI’s child exploitation task forces, which include local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. More than 500 law enforcement officers participated in stings at hotels, casinos, truck stops and other locations known to be frequented by pimps and prostitutes. “When kids are treated as a commodity in seedy hotels and on dark roadsides, we must rescue them from their nightmare and severely punish those responsible for that horror,” said FBI Director James Comey. The youngest victim rescued was 12 years old. “It’s a really young age – we’re really concerned about that,” said Staca Shehan of the missing and exploited children center. “The majority of cases we see involve 15-, 16- and 17-year-old children.”