During the past three days, the FBI, its local, state and federal law enforcement partners, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children conducted Operation Cross Country VII, an enforcement action to address commercial child sex trafficking throughout the United States.
The operation included enforcement actions in 76 cities across 47 FBI divisions nationwide and led to the recovery of 105 children who were being victimized through prostitution. Additionally, 150 pimps were arrested on state and federal charges.
According to a news release, the FBI recovered one child and arrested three people in Charlotte.
"Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America," said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division. "This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere and the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable."
To date, the FBI and its task force partners have recovered more than 2,700 children from the streets. The investigations and subsequent 1,350 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including 10 life terms and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets.
The operation in Charlotte was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office, the Gaston County Police Department, the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office, and the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services.
A woman who has a ministry aimed at young prostitutes in Charlotte says the sex trade preys on teenagers here.
"It's not just going on in other countries it's happening here locally--we need to have our eyes open to it," says Aimee Johnson, who started Rise Up Ministry in 2011.
She is pleased that Charlotte is one of the cities the FBI targeted in its sweep but says it is just one indicator of how big the problem is.
"In the past year and a half we've been able to rescue 19 girls. We see it daily....in and out, so I'm not surprised at all," Johnson says.