Local crackdown on child prostitution results in 3 rescues, 9 arrests

SEATTLE -- There are three child exploitation task forces in Seattle, Tacoma and Everett and as part of a nationwide crackdown on underage human trafficking, the task forces executed what the FBI called the largest crackdown to date on child prostitution.

In Everett, Operation Cross Country arrested one pimp; in Seattle, they locked up three pimps and rescued three child victims, and in Tacoma five pimps were arrested.

While those arrests are from a 3-day effort in the area, the task forces work year round to break up child prostitution rings.

"We feel like we are making a dent in the problem when we recover even one victim," Ayn Sandalo Dietrich, an FBI spokeswoman, said.

Pimps advertise kids online so task force member focused on websites like Backpage.com and worked with undercover cops to set up meetings with the girls. The FBI said their best information on identifying pimps comes from adult prostitutes, and they interviewed dozens of local women.

"Some of our research has shown that about 25 percent of women engaged in prostitution actually started when they were still minors," Sandalo Dietrich said.

"The youngest victims recovered through this initiative was only 9-years-old," Ronald Hosko, Assistant Director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division, said.

Once they get to the girls and try to get them out, it doesn't always work. Some girls don't want to leave, but the idea is to break their dependency on the men who are exploiting them. Once they locate the girls, they are offered "job training, housing, counseling and medical and educational assistance," Sandalo Dietrich said.

There are success stories of girls who are able to break the chain -- one young girl who was rescued in Tacoma is now getting ready to graduate from college.

"We connected her with the right resources to seek a different path," Sandalo Dietrich said.

Nationwide, Operation Cross Country recovered 79 children who were found at truck stops, casinos and on the streets. Most of them came from the foster care system or are runaways.