A coordinated undercover operation in Chicago and elsewhere in the country, led by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, sought to shut down child prostitution rings, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. In the Chicago area, three underage girls working as prostitutes were treated as victims and taken into the custody of the Dept. of Children and Family Services.
They include a 17-year-old Downer's Grove girl, a 16-year-old Lansing girl and a 16-year-old South Holland girl.
The three-day operation led to the arrests of six pimps and 39 other adults charged with a variety of sex crimes. Given the FBI's involvement in the operation, the suspects will probably need to find Chicago criminal defense attorneys experienced in federal cases.
Arrests were made in 40 US cities, snagging a total of 884 suspects (including 99 pimps). Sixty-nine children working as prostitutes were found nationally. Greg Wing, FBI supervisor of Crimes Against Children in Chicago, said Operation Cross Country was focused on rescuing children:
"There's no work that's more important than protecting our children. We're definitely trying to focus on those victims."
Children are forced into prostitution in most cases, he said, adding that they often develop what is dubbed "Stockholm Syndrome" and actually defend their pimps. Specialists often are called in to help the children transition out of the prostitution racket.
The FBI then interviews the victims to recover information about prostitution rings and the network of pimps across the country, Greg Wing said. Many of the prostitutes were found through online and newspaper advertisements.
FBI spokesman Ross Rice said the three-day operation used 100 police officers and roughly 12 FBI agents in the Chicago area alone to target child prostitution rings:
"It's just a phenomenon we've been seeing, where minor children are being forced into or are allowed to engage in prostitution activities."
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