WASHINGTON -- More than 100 sexually exploited teenagers, some as young as 13, were recovered in a nationwide sex trafficking sting over the weekend, the FBI announced Monday.
The three-day sweep of 76 cities, focusing on underage victims of prostitution, rescued 105 teens and resulted in 150 arrests of pimps and other individuals.
Working with nearly 4,000 local, state and federal law enforcement officers, it was the seventh and largest operation to date in the FBI’s Innocence Lost initiative, which it says has identified and rescued more than 2,700 sexually exploited children since 2003.
“We are trying to take this crime out of the shadows and put a spotlight on it,” said Ronald Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. The victims are “under-the-radar, below-the-horizon kids” that the public is not paying attention to.
Many of them are being recruited right out of the foster-care system, according to John Ryan, chief executive of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a nonprofit that assisted the FBI with the weekend raids.
“We are finding a very disturbing trend,” Ryan said. “They leave foster care and they literally fall off the radar. That’s something that needs to be addressed.”