The FBI rescued 168 children, victims of child sex trafficking, in an annual nationwide crackdown over the last week, the agency said Monday.
Besides the nearly 170 children rescued from the sex trade, many of whom had never been reported missing, 281 pimps were arrested during the same period on state and federal charges, The Associated Press reported.
"These are not faraway kids in faraway lands," FBI Director James Comey said in announcing the annual enforcement push known as Operation Cross Country. Instead, he added, "These are America's children."
Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll
This is the eighth such week-long operation, which this year unfolded in 106 cities. The FBI says nearly 3,600 children have so far been recovered from the street.
"I hate that we have to do this work - hate it," Comey said. "I love the people who've devoted their lives to doing this work. There is no more meaningful work that the FBI participates in than rescuing children."
He said the operations were designed to "crush these pimps" and show that children are not for sale. They are also intended to rescue children who are being trafficked on street corners, in truck stops and, increasingly, on the Internet, where pimps advertise and arrange sexual encounters.
One challenge, officials said, is that many of the children who were recovered were never reported missing in the first place - by parents, guardians and the entire child welfare system designed to protect them.
"No one is reporting them missing. Hence, no one is looking for them," said John Ryan, CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "But for operations like this, these children likely would never have been found."
He said better laws were needed to require child welfare service to report children who disappear. Right now, he said, only two states have laws requiring agencies to report children missing from their care. There is no national, uniform standard.
"We cannot find them if no one reports them missing," Ryan said.
Comey said this year featured the highest number of participating cities, even though this operation is the eighth of its kind. But he said the biggest change was the increasing prevalence of children being sold online rather than on street corners.
Urgent: Assess Your Heart Attack Risk in Minutes. Click Here.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.