6 juveniles rescued in prostitution sweep

June 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A number of Bay Area children have been rescued, as part of a nationwide child prostitution sting. The FBI and two dozen local agencies made arrests in San Rafael, Richmond, San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward.

The sweep was dubbed "Operation Cross Country" and for three days more than 20 law enforcement agencies, headed by the FBI, fanned out across the Bay Area. They made lots of arrests and rescues.

"In 57 cities across the country, 79 children were rescued and 104 individuals who exploited them were arrested," said Michael Gavin, the FBI assistant special agent in charge.

Many of the arrests were in the Bay Area. Police say they included 61 adult prostitutes, three johns and seven pimps. The operation also rescued six underage prostitutes, among the highest number taken into custody in the nationwide sweep.

"Every city had at least one of two juveniles that were liberated. None had more than six. We tied for most in the country with several other areas," said Gavin.

It always appears to the same story. During our ride-a-longs with police, we've seen the same scenario over and over again. Typically, the girls are runaways. The pimps take advantage of their vulnerability.

"They didn't say they were kidnapped. They were out there because they were kind of forced to be out there by some pimp," said Oakland Police Lt. Johnny Davis.

During our last ridealong with the San Mateo Gang Task Force on June 12, police stopped a car with a 15-year-old runaway who was with two men and another young woman. Inside the car, were drugs, knives and a laptop with websites like Craigslist and Redbook marked as favorites -- sites commonly used by prostitutes to solicit online.

Law enforcement officials said the six juveniles are now in victims services programs.

"How we take care of these young ladies after they've been rescued is a critical key to Operation Cross Country being successful," said Gavin.

They'll be placed in safe homes with access to medical care and most importantly counseling. Davis says, "Counseling and those types of things go a long way in getting those girls off the street."

The six juveniles rescued range in age from 15 to 17 and of course now the big challenge is to keep them from returning back to the streets.

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