By Michael Winter, USA TODAY
The FBI announced today that agents and local police rescued 79 teenagers and arrested 104 alleged pimps during a three-day sweep against child sex trafficking in 57 U.S. cities.
The juveniles -- 77 girls and two boys between the ages of 13 and 17 -- had been held against their will and were forced into prostitution after their captors allegedly threatened to harm them and their families, the FBI said. The teens were found at hotels, truck stops, casinos and storefronts, Reuters says. One girl said she had been prostituted since she was 11.
Video shows apparent teen prostitutes and alleged pimps in handcuff. The FBI said the minors were "recovered" and did not indicate that they would be charged with any crimes.
The agency has separate releases for Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
The crackdown, from Wednesday to Saturday, is the sixth since 2008 as part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, which was launched in 2003. Similar sweeps rescued 69 minors in November 2010, more than 50 in October 2009 and 48 in February 2009.
To date, 47 Innocence Lost Task Forces and working groups have recovered more than 2,200 children from the streets. The investigations and subsequent 1,017 convictions of pimps, madams, and their associates who exploit children through prostitution have resulted in lengthy sentences-including multiple sentences of 25 years to life in prison-and the seizure of more than $3 million in assets.
"Child prostitution remains a major threat to children across America," said Kevin Perkins, acting executive assistant director of the FBI's Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch. "It is a violent and deplorable crime, and we are working with our partners to disrupt and put behind bars individuals and members of criminal enterprises who would sexually exploit children."
Thursday, a Phoenix man was arrested for allegedly prostituting a 17-year-old girl, and his 37-year-old girlfriend was charged with exploiting a minor by taking nude photos of the teen, KPHO-TV reported.