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FBI Says It Freed 168 U.S. Children In Sex-Trafficking Raids

The authorities rounded up 281 pimps and freed 168 juveniles last week, targeting child sex-trafficking operations in more than 100 U.S. cities. Police arrested 21 pimps in Phoenix, the most of any FBI division. Other hotspots in the coordinated raids were centered in Denver, Cleveland, and Los Angeles.

As NPR reported in March, "The Justice Department estimates that each year at least 200,000 children are trafficked for sex in the U.S., and it is said to generate upward of $32 billion a year."

A full list of the number of juveniles recovered and pimps arrested is on the Department of Justice website. It shows several FBI divisions in double-digits in both categories:

Atlanta (11 juveniles recovered, 15 pimps arrested)
Cleveland (16 juveniles recovered, 12 pimps arrested)
Denver (18 juveniles recovered, 11 pimps arrested)
Los Angeles (10 juveniles recovered, 12 pimps arrested)

"Child sex traffickers create a living nightmare for their adolescent victims," said the Justice Department's Leslie R. Caldwell, assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division. "They use fear and force and treat children as commodities of sex to be sold again and again. This operation puts traffickers behind bars and rescues kids from their nightmare so they can start reclaiming their childhood."

The FBI says nearly 3,600 children have been recovered from the streets since it began pursuing the week-long enforcement program under the Bush administration's Innocence Lost National Initiative.

Under the program, titled Operation Cross Country, "1,450 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including 14 life terms," the FBI says. The agency says the cases include work by local, state, and federal agencies.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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