Police and federal agents in Washington, acting as part of a national operation targeting child prostitution, say they rescued three juveniles and arrested nine people suspected of child abuse and other crimes, according to the FBI.
The rescues and arrests were part of a three-day sweep by the FBI and local law enforcement in 76 American cities. The bureau said that, in all, 105 children ranging in age from 13 to 17 were rescued and more than 150 pimps were arrested.
The largest numbers of children saved were in Detroit, San Francisco and Milwaukee, according to the FBI.
Ayn Dietrich, a spokeswoman for the Seattle office of the FBI, said the bureau would not release specifics about the girls or the suspects arrested in Washington. U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Emily Langlie said that the cases would likely be filed in federal court, but that no charges had been filed as of Monday.
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The national campaign, known as Operation Cross Country, was conducted under the FBI’s Innocence Lost initiative.
Dietrich said that the Western Washington operation included sweeps by child-exploitation task forces in Everett, Federal Way, Lakewood, Renton, Seattle and Tacoma, and other areas of King County.
In addition to the arrests, task-force officers interviewed 55 adults working as prostitutes and recovered “large sums” of cash, two guns, a knife, a Taser and stolen identity cards, the FBI said.
“Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across the country,” Ron Hosko, assistant director of the bureau’s criminal investigative division, told a news conference in Washington, D.C., where the results of “Operation Cross Country VII” were announced.
The FBI said the campaign has resulted in rescuing 2,700 children since 2003.
The investigations and convictions of 1,350 have led to life imprisonment for 10 pimps and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets, the FBI said.
For the past decade, the FBI has been attacking the problem in partnership with a nonprofit group, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
John Ryan, the head of the center, called the problem “an escalating threat against America’s children.”
The Justice Department has estimated that nearly 450,000 children run away from home each year and that one-third of teens living on the street will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.
Congress has introduced legislation that would require state law enforcement and foster-care and child-welfare programs to identify children lured into sex trafficking as victims of abuse and neglect eligible for protections and services.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information from The Associated Press is contained in this report.