(OAKLAND, Calif.) — Oakland, California’s red light district is known as “the track.” It is a place where prostitutes line block after block, many of them runaways.
This weekend, the track was just one of many targets in a nationwide crackdown on child prostitution.
The FBI, along with 230 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, launched its eighth Operation Cross Country, arresting 281 alleged pimps and rescuing 168 child prostitutes in more than 100 cities, from Tampa to Denver to Los Angeles.
Authorities said it was the largest number of pimps and children taken off the street for Cross Country.
“These are our kids,” said FBI director James Comey. “Our street corners, our truck stops, our motels, our casinos. These are America’s children. Our children are not for sale.”
Police say some of the young people were runaways and then forced into prostitution. Many were lured by boyfriends offering little more than promises of love and affection.
One woman arrested during the Operation Cross Country sweep said she was just 17 and a half when she got caught up.
“The guy said, ‘Oh, I’ll take you home….We’ll go to the mall first….He kind of wheeled me into it,” she said. “I was scared.”
“They’re completely indoctrinated,” said an undercover officer in Oakland. “Some of them are in love with their pimps. Some of them, their home lives were so bad, this could be better but it’s not good.”
The underage children are sent to juvenile hall, where police say they get help and most importantly are forced to spend time away from their pimps.
Police say the problem is growing — there are more prostitutes and pimps on the streets than there are officers who can arrest them.
Oakland police eventually ended their sting because they were simply out of manpower.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
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