Sixteen teenagers ranging in age from 13 to 17 were recovered by law enforcement in a crackdown on child trafficking surrounding the Super Bowl last weekend. The FBI said the teens included high school students and young people reported missing by their families.
"It is the most significant operation we've had around a big event," Michael Osborne of the FBI's Violent Crimes Against Children Unit told ABC News. "This is the most recoveries we've had at one time."
Officials said the vast majority of the rescued teens were girls.
Osborne said he calls taking the young people off the street "recoveries," because the children are not charged. In child exploitation cases like this, law enforcement officials said operations are designed to remove the young victims from a life of exploitation and abuse.
"These recoveries are victim-focused," Osborn said. "Many times these young people are kept in this life by pimps using sexual, physical and emotional abuse."
The law enforcement effort to help the young victims goes well beyond providing overnight food, clothing and shelter, Osborne said. Over the course of the operation, the FBI's victim specialists' provided 70 women and children referrals to health care facilities, shelters, and other programs. Osborne said the FBI works with social service specialists to provide for the long-term needs of the victims as well.
Osborne said many times, prostitutes are not walking the streets anymore, but rather their services are offered on internet sites by their pimps.
"No doubt about it, we had a lot of internet activity in the past week," Osborne said.