Law enforcement officials recovered 168 child victims of commercial sex trafficking in a nationwide sweep during the past week and arrested 281 pimps, the FBI said Monday.
The recoveries and arrests took place in 106 cities as part of a week-long campaign targeting truck stops, casinos, websites that advertise dating or escort services and metro areas populated by strip clubs and pornography stores.
This is the eighth time the FBI has coordinated a nationwide child prostitution action, FBI Director James Comey said. Known as Operation Cross Country, the operation involves 54 FBI field divisions and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
In the past seven years, the sweeps have identified and recovered about 3,400 children who have been sexually exploited, the FBI said. The operation also has led to 1,450 convictions, 14 life prison terms, and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets.
"Operation Cross Country reveals that children are being targeted and sold for sex in America every day," said John Ryan, president and CEO of the national center.
"Every child deserves to be safe and sound," Comey said in announcing the update.
Initial arrests often cover violations of local and state laws relating to prostitution or solicitation. Information gleaned from those arrested frequently uncovers organized efforts to prostitute women and children across many states.
FBI agents develop this evidence in partnership with U.S. Attorney's Offices and the Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section so that prosecutors can help bring federal charges in cities where child prostitution occurs.
Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, established in 2003 by the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Justice Department and national center.