NEW YORK — Federal and local law enforcement rescued 16 teenagers and arrested 45 suspects in connect with sex-trafficking offenses in the days surrounding Super Bowl XLVIII.
According to a press release issued by the FBI Tuesday, federal law officials teamed up with 50 other law enforcement agencies as part of an operation conducted to counter an expected increase in prostitution around 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 juveniles rescued during the collaborative operation ranged in ages from 13 to 17, including children who had been reported as missing by their families.
The FBI statement also said that international sex-trafficking victims were recovered during the joint operation.
Local officials worked to reunite the teens with their families and provided medical care and shelter for those who had no place to go.
In total, 70 people received, including the rescued teenagers, received help from authorities as a result of the operation.
“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 law enforcement efforts were part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, said FBI officials, which 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.
FBI officials said, to date, these types of efforts have recovered more than 31,00 children, and investigations have led to 1,400 convictions.