Federal and local law enforcement agents have arrested 35 people in Atlanta as part of a nationwide sting operation combating child prostitution. Among other places, the arrests were conducted at truck stops, casinos and motels.
Officers rescued two child prostitutes in the raids and sent to jail six suspected pimps, 26 suspected prostitutes, and three Johns – people who solicit prostitutions.
Nationwide, law enforcement arrested about 700 people and rescued fifty-four underage prostitutes, ages 10 to 17 years old, according to the FBI’s Dave Johnson. The three-day sting, known as Operation Cross Country, took place between October 22 and October 24.
All of the children rescued were American citizens.
According to Johnson, most of the children are runaways and come from broken homes. Pimps tend to prey on vulnerable children, Johnson says.
“When they see them and have access to them they make their lifestyle look very lucrative and better than what their home life is like. And unfortunately that doesn’t tend to be the case,” Johnson says.
Johnson says his agency has been surprised by the prevalence of child prostitution.
Atlanta, according to the United Nations, has been a center for both international and domestic child sex slavery and prostitution.
Stephanie Davis, policy advisor on Women’s Issues to Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, says various factors make Atlanta a center for child prostitution, including its role as a regional hub.
Atlanta is also a popular site for business conventions and sporting events. Davis says some of the male attendees “who are alone take advantage of what they see as a victimless crime – prostitution – and because they are away from home they can act with feelings of impunity.”
Davis says that she cannot say definitively whether child prostitution has increased in the last decade in Atlanta, but that “with the Internet creating a marketplace for the buying and selling of kids,” she believes the problem has gotten worse.