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.
Sweep Recovers Child Victims of Prostitution, FBI.gov
(June 25, 2012)
Century Slaves: FBI Agents Rescue 79 Child Sex Trafficking Victims In 3 Days [VIDEO],
Int'l Bus. Times (June 26, 2012)
rescues 79 minors from sex slavery in major nationwide raid,
NY Daily News (June 26, 2012)
rescues 79 child sex slaves in massive three-day prostitution sweep across the
US, UK Mail Online (June 26, 2012)
Teenage U.S. Citizens Rescued from Forced Prostitution,
JD Journal (June 27, 2012)