Thursday, February 6, 2014
Sixteen Juveniles Recovered In Joint Super Bowl Operation Targeting Underage Prostitution
The FBI, in partnership with more than 50 law enforcement agencies, recovered 16 juveniles during an enforcement action focused on commercial child sex trafficking. Additionally, more than 45 pimps and their associates were arrested, some of whom claimed to have traveled to New Jersey from other states specifically for the purpose of prostituting women and children at the Super Bowl.
“High-profile special events, which draw large crowds, have become lucrative opportunities for child prostitution criminal enterprises,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI and our partners remain committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and putting those who try to profit from this type of criminal activity behind bars.”
The minors recovered during the Super Bowl operations ranged in ages from 13 to 17 years old and included high school students and children who had been reported missing by their families.
Additionally, enforcement actions resulted in the recovery of international human trafficking victims.
Over the course of the operation, the FBI’s victim specialists provided 70 women and children services such as food, clothing, and referrals to health care facilities, shelters, and other programs.
Today’s announcement comes after more than six months of localized FBI-led law enforcement preparation. Working with a variety of federal, state, and local partners, the FBI has provided training on how to identify and address child exploitation.
“Through partnerships, enhanced as a result of this operation, we hope to build a lasting framework that helps the community address this problem,” said Michael Harpster, chief of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Section. “It’s easy to focus on this issue in light of a high-profile event, but the sad reality is, this is a problem we see every day in communities across the country.”
The FBI’s Super Bowl operation efforts are part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative that was established in 2003 by the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to address the growing problem of child prostitution.
To date, the FBI and its task force partners have recovered more than 3,100 children. The investigations and subsequent 1,400 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including 11 life terms and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets.
The FBI thanks its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners who participated in Super Bowl enforcement efforts. The New Haven Division worked alongside police officers and detectives from the Connecticut State Police-Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Computer Crimes Unit and the Stamford Police Department and victim specialists from the Department of Children and Families (DCF). These important and sensitive investigations focused on hotels in lower Fairfield County, where past history has suggested underage prostitution might be taking place. The teams worked late into the night on both Friday and Saturday.
“There is no place in a civilized society for human trafficking, but the sad reality is that underage prostitution exists and passes through every main street in America,” stated Special Agent in Charge Patricia Ferrick, head of the New Haven Division of the FBI. “I have dedicated agents who work diligently with our law enforcement partners to locate and identify underage prostitutes and facilitate their return to safer and healthier environments. First and foremost, our mission is to rescue these kids.”
Nationwide, each FBI field office works closely with state agencies charged with providing child and family services. in Connecticut, DCF has been a driving force to educate the public about underage prostitution and child trafficking and to provide safe havens for those children who are taken off the streets.
Last week, DCF co-hosted a human trafficking forum in Hartford. “One of the goals of the forum was to educate the public about trafficking,” stated SAC Ferrick. “Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover once said, ‘The most effective weapon against crime is cooperation...the efforts of all law enforcement agencies with the support and understanding of the American people.’ That especially holds true as it relates to the trafficking of minors.”