An operation targeting child prostitution recovered six underage teenage girls, ages 15 to 17, from Bay Area streets and resulted in the arrest of a large number of pimps and adult prostitutes, law enforcement officials said Monday.
The operation was not directly aimed at San Leandro but there were actions in surrounding communities, including Oakland, said FBI assistant special agent Michael Gavin said at a news conference at the Hayward Police Department.
The girls were recovered in the local prong of a nationwide enforcement action called Operation Cross Country. The operation was carried out in 57 cities around the country between Wednesday and Saturday.
Juvenile prostitution has reached epidemic proportions in Oakland, with some girls startinting to work as prostitutes when they are only 12 or 13, according to that series. The ""Track," a section of International Boulevard in the middle of the city, is one area known as a hub for prostitution.
In the recent Bay Area operation, law enforcement authorities arrested a total of 10 pimps and 65 adult prostitutes in addition to rescuing the six girls, FBI spokesman Peter Lee said.
Nationwide, 79 children were rescued and 104 pimps were arrested, Gavin said. He said the underage girls who were rescued will be provided with support services aimed at permanently removing them from the prostitution trade.
"We want to give them help so they don't get back to that life," Gavin said.
Hayward police Chief Diane Urban said many child prostitutes are runaways who are blackmailed into that way of life by pimps who take advantage of them.
"Many of them had a fight with a parent or a bad day at school and they fall into prostitution accidentally," Urban said.
"I can assure you that young people don't get involved in it because it's a great job."
The Oakland nonprofit Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth, or MISSSEY, offers training for new volunteers
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