WASHINGTON — More than five dozen child prostitutes have been found as part of a three-day nationwide crackdown on the sexual exploitation of children, the FBI said.
FBI spokesman Jason Pack said Monday that 69 children were removed from prostitution and 99 suspected pimps were arrested in 40 cities across 30 states and the District of Columbia. Authorities arrested 785 other adults on a variety state and local charges, Pack said.
All the children found were placed into protective custody or returned to their families.
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The children were found during Operation Cross Country V, a three-day roundup targeting child traffickers and pimps. The largest group of child prostitutes, 24, was found in and around Seattle, according to the FBI.
FBI executive assistant director Shawn Henry said the children found ranged in age from 12 to 17. Authorities are working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to confirm their identities.Story: Feds: Somali gangs ran sex ring in 3 states
The Everett-Seattle-Tacoma region had the largest number of children rescued for the third year in a row, The Seattle Times reported.
"Some of them are very young — 14, 15 years old," Steven Dean, assistant special-agent-in-charge of the FBI's field office in Seattle, told the newspaper.
Henry said child prostitutes are often recruited by loose knit groups that seek out kids who may be involved in drugs or runaways looking for a "responsible adult" to help them.
"There are groups of people out there preying on naive kids who don't have a good sense of the way of the world," Henry said. "Sometimes there's a threat of force, threats of violence. A lot these kids operate out of a sense of fear."
Since 2003, when the FBI and the Justice Department launched the Innocence Lost National Initiative, about 1,250 child prostitutes have been located and removed from prostitution.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.