Over the last several days the FBI, in cooperation with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, conducted its seventh cross-country sweep looking to help stop child sex trafficking. The FBI worked with local police agencies, helped recover victims who have been forced into prostitution, and made arrests. About 50 different task forces participated.
In Washington state, eight local cities were involved including Seattle, Everett and Tacoma. Three child victims were found and nine people were arrested. All are suspected of crimes involving abuse of a minor.
Ayn Dietrich with the FBI in Seattle says the FBI does this to get a snapshot of how the problem looks across the country. "We’re sending a message to pimps saying that the FBI nationwide is working together with our partners. We’re dedicated to stopping your criminal activity. We’re trying to let those child victims out there really feel our presence and let them know we’re trying to reach them and make a different path for themselves, out of this cycle of abuse."
We took a close look at the FBI numbers since these sweeps began in 2008. Turns out Seattle often comes out high.
In five out of seven sweeps, Seattle had more kids recovered than in Vegas or in Los Angeles, where underage victims getting forced into prostitution is a real problem.
Dietrich says you can’t use the sweeps to compare one city to another. "We’re not looking at the exact same resources. We have three task forces here, just on western Washington's area. I'm not sure how many task forces there might be in any other given division. They could have less of them, and so that’s just less officers out there available to be doing the arrests."
Either way, child sex trafficking is a problem in all the cities involved. Since the cross-country sweeps began, Dietrich says, more than 2,700 juveniles have been recovered out of prostitution, not just in the sweeps but as part of the combined efforts of local police and the FBI.