LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Hundreds of children have been rescued as part of a nationwide sex trafficking sting that resulted in 150 arrests, federal investigators said Monday.
Nearly 50 FBI divisions worldwide took part in “Operation Cross Country,” a three-day enforcement action in 76 cities – including Los Angeles and San Diego – focusing on underage victims of prostitution, according to FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller.
Three pimps were arrested and two juveniles were recovered in Los Angeles, while authorities in San Diego arrested six and recovered five minors during the operation, which typically begins with local enforcement actions that target truck stops, casinos, street “tracks,” and websites that advertise dating or escort services, according to the FBI.
KCAL9′s Kristine Lazar reports that the Los Angeles office of the FBI expects to arrest at least three more pimps and rescue two more children in the coming days.
The operation – which was the FBI’s seventh and largest such enforcement action to date – was carried out as part of the Bureau’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, and was conducted in partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties, Eimiller told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO.
All of the children rescued will receive care.
“They’re placed in protective custody and we work with our victim’s specialists to get them help,” said Eimiller.
Eimiller said the use of Craigslist, Backpage and other free Internet classified sites has changed the way investigators track down both child traffickers and their victims.
“It is challenging also because the nature of online advertising means that they can make these women available anywhere, and so it also leads to the extended problem of interstate trafficking of women for the purposes of prostitution,” Eimiller said.
Since its creation in 2003, the FBI said the Innocence Lost National Initiative has resulted in the identification and recovery of more than 2,700 children who have been sexually exploited.
According to the FBI, many of the pimps arrested will face federal charges that bring stricter prison sentences, including the possibility of life behind bars.