DENVER (CBS4) – Dozens of children have been rescued and pimps arrested across the nation in an FBI sex trafficking string.
The FBI’s Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force partnered with other local law enforcement to go after sex traffickers who put up children for sale. They announced the results of the latest sting on Tuesday.
In Colorado and Wyoming, nine children were rescued, 11 pimps were arrested along with 32 customers in the latest sting.
The intensive, three-day effort concentrated on hotels, truck stops, street corners and social media apps to target the traffickers. The youngest child recovered was 14-years-old.
The latest effort was in coordination with the FBI’s 10th annual nationwide operation targeting child sex traffickers known as Operation Cross Country involving 38 agencies across the U.S.
FBI agents believe the trend is part of the increase of using social media to target and exploit children, including many dating and meetup apps. It’s estimated that as many as 2,000 children in Wyoming and Colorado are trafficked every year.
Police in Denver believe it could happen to any child, anywhere.
“It can be your kid. It can be anybody’s kid. And while it’s true that traffickers look for vulnerabilities, I would argue that every teen has some kind of vulnerability, whether they’re feeling left out, whether they’re feeling alone, seeking relationships, seeking affection, seeking some kind of acceptance for wherever they’re at,” said Denver Police Sgt. and Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force member Daniel Steele.
In one case, two pimps were caught driving two females, one juvenile and one adult, across the Midwest, selling them for sex along the way. When they arrived in Denver and advertised the two victims on a sex website, Denver police answered the ad and arrested the men for human trafficking of a minor for sexual servitude.
Victims advocates gave the victims food, clothing, shelter, medical assistance and connected them with resources like counseling.