The FBI announced on Monday that it had arrested 150 suspected pimps and rescued 105 alleged victims in a three-day nationwide sting focusing on child prostitution.
Federal officials worked alongside state and local law enforcement authorities in 76 cities to carry out "Operation Cross Country," which it says is the largest such enforcement ever under the bureau's Innocence Lost National Initiative.
"Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America," said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, in a statement. "This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere and that the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable," Hosko added.
Since the initiative's creation in 2003, authorities have identified and recovered more than 2,700 alleged victims of underage sexual exploitation.
The youngest of the alleged victims was 9 years old, Reuters reported. The most juveniles were recovered in San Francisco, Detroit and Milwaukee. Twelve alleged victims were recovered in San Francisco, while 10 were each rescued in Detroit and Milwaukee.
Detroit and San Francisco also topped the list for the highest numbers of alleged pimps in those cities, at 18 and 17 arrests in each city respectively. Washington, D.C. was the only city in which authorities did not recover an alleged victim or arrest a suspect.
"Operation Cross Country demonstrates just how many of America's children are being sold for sex every day, many on the Internet," said John Ryan, CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in a statement. The organization worked with the FBI on the operation.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced that it had arrested 255 suspected child predators and rescued 61 alleged victims during a five-week operation to combat the online sexual exploitation of children.
The agency announced on July 15 that the alleged offenders face charges ranging from online sexual enticement of a minor, to child pornography production and traveling with the intent to have sex with a minor.