July 29, 2013/ NYT

Clip_394The FBI on July 29, 2013 said that a nationwide operation had led to the arrests over the last few days of 159 men charged with forcing about 105 teenage girls to work as prostitutes. Some of the girls were as young as 13.

The agency said that 105 girls were rescued but not charged.

The operation was part of a decade-long Justice Department program — the Innocence Lost National Initiative — that is intended to break up child prostitution rings. The program has led to the convictions of 1,350 people for pimping-related offenses, 10 of whom received life sentences, according to the FBI.

Over the last decade, roughly 2,700 children were rescued from working as prostitutes through such operations, the agency said.

The FBI arranged for victim assistance counselors working with local child services organizations to place the teenagers in foster or group homes, said the assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigations division. No charges would be filed against the girls, he said.

“We are not going to charge child victims of prostitution with prostitution,” he said. “We regard them as victims, as they were not able to make a choice for themselves. The goal is to break the cycle so they can rebuild their lives.”

The most arrests were in Detroit, where 18 pimps were taken into custody and 10 girls were rescued, the FBI said.

In San Francisco, 17 pimps were held and 12 girls rescued. There were 17 arrests in Atlanta, and two girls were rescued. There were arrests in more than 70 cities.

The authorities focused on finding prostitutes who were seeking customers on the Web or at places like truck stops and casinos. After tracking down the young women, officers used information from the teenagers to locate their pimps.

Many of the operations were conducted by both federal and local law enforcement officers, along with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a Congressionally authorized program.

John Ryan, the head of the center for missing and exploited children, said the problem of child prostitution was getting worse. The recent effort, he said, demonstrated “just how many of America’s children are being sold for sex every day, many on the Internet.”