(CBS News) The FBI has announced the results of the latest nationwide sweep of prostitution rings that prey on children. Over a three-day period, FBI agents with state and local police officials "rescued" 79 minors and arrested 104 pimps. Acting Executive Assistant Director Kevin Perkins briefed reporters on this sixth deployment of "Operation Cross Country," describing how child prostitution has evolved from a local crime to a nationwide problem dominated by organized crime groups "with a business strategy" that recruit vulnerable children in social media, chat lines and text messaging.
Perkins said the girls are "of tender age, 11, 12 and 13 years," enticed with cell phones and other gifts but also with offers of basic food and shelter. The children soon discover that there is no way out.
"They are told, you can be killed and we can injure your parents. Just like any kind of a hostage, they're being held against their will," Perkins said.
Ernie Allen, President of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which joined the FBI in its announcement, said many communities have turned a blind eye to child prostitution. But Allen says the deployment of 2,500 officers in 57 cities in this operation shows that public attitudes are changing.
I'm not surprised that the prostitution market for pre-teens has exploded. We are a nation obsessed with youth/youthful look (ex. The Jenner girls) so sadly I think this epidemic was inevitable. Sexualized images of children, especially girls are so commonplace that it's the new "norm".