International Law

Operation Cross Country Brings Rule of Law to Child Prostitution

Earlier this week, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in conjunction with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), state and local law enforcement, rescued 79 teenage prostitutes and arrested 104 alleged child sex traffickers ("pimps" and "madams"). Part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, Operation Cross Country VI involved more than two thousand law enforcement officers working in 57 cities.

Since 2003, this anti-child prostitution initiative has rescued at least 2,200 children and resulted in more than 1,000 child sex traffickers being convicted for exploiting minors. Some of the perpetrators have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Yet the number of victims rescued is perhaps one percent of the total U.S. children who are trafficked each year. To be sure, it is laudable to rescue minors from sex trafficking. However, it appears that the financial incentives to abuse children continue outweigh the deterrents imposed by the rule of law.

There is no easy solution to this problem, particularly when many minors run away from child abuse at home before ending up as prostitutes on the streets. Those few victims who are lucky enough to be rescued face an uphill battle to have a normal life afterwards. There is a real risk that those who are rescued will end up back on the streets.

Allocation of additional resources at the federal, state, and local levels, together with raising public awareness of the seriousness of the problem of domestic child sex trafficking, are a few steps that can be taken to reduce the number of victims. As for the sex traffickers, strict mandatory minimum sentences, without chance of early parole, may serve as a deterrent to those who are tempted to sexually exploit children for monetary gain.

As for Operation Cross Country VI, one can only hope that the rescued minors are rehabilitated while their traffickers meet swift justice through application of the rule of law. The NCMEC and the law enforcement involved in this rescue operation deserve our gratitude.

Recommended Reading

Nationwide Sweep Recovers Child Victims of Prostitution, (June 25, 2012)

21st Century Slaves: FBI Agents Rescue 79 Child Sex Trafficking Victims In 3 Days [VIDEO], Int'l Bus. Times (June 26, 2012)

FBI rescues 79 minors from sex slavery in major nationwide raid, NY Daily News (June 26, 2012)

FBI rescues 79 child sex slaves in massive three-day prostitution sweep across the US, UK Mail Online (June 26, 2012)

Seventy-Nine Teenage U.S. Citizens Rescued from Forced Prostitution, JD Journal (June 27, 2012)