Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, speaks during a news conference about Operation Cross Country at FBI headquarters on Monday in Washington. The FBI says the operation rescued 105 children who were forced into prostitution in the United States, including three in Maine.
The Associated Press
Last year, five members of the Underground Gangster Crips contacted teens at school or through Facebook, DateHookUp.com or other social networking sites, enticing the girls to use their looks to earn money as prostitutes.
In earlier sweeps, child prostitution victims have been recovered at major sporting events -- including the NCAA Final Four and the Super Bowl, Hosko said.
In the 1990s, gangs took control of street prostitution across America; that forced pimps to move girls into sporting events where security existed, said Dr. Lois Lee, founder and president of Children of the Night, a nonprofit that has rescued 10,000 children from prostitution since 1979.
Hosko said the plight of the young people often goes unreported to authorities because the children in many instances are alienated from their families and are no longer in touch.
Pimps operate wherever vulnerable potential victims can be found. Some are being recruited out of foster care facilities, Hosko said.
For the past decade, the FBI has been attacking the problem in partnership with the private group, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
John Ryan, the head of the center, called the problem "an escalating threat against America's children."
The Justice Department has estimated that nearly 450,000 children run away from home each year and that one-third of teens living on the street will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.
Congress has introduced legislation that would require state law enforcement, foster care and child welfare programs to identify children lured into sex trafficking as victims of abuse and neglect eligible for protections and services.
"In much of the country today, if a girl is found in the custody of a so-called pimp she is not considered to be a victim of abuse, and that's just wrong and defies common sense," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said during a Senate Finance Committee hearing last month. Wyden co-sponsored the legislation with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: