Dubbed “Operation Cross-Country” the FBI in the United States launched a massive mission to rescue trafficked teens in 76 cities. Rescuing over 100 teens and a child as young as 9 years old plus arresting 150 pimps was considered a success. With federal, state and local partnerships this 72 hour sting sent a message but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
If within 3 days you can net that many people involved in selling children how many more were buyers. In 72 hours one exploited and prostituted child or adult can be bought several times over. It is hard for people to comprehend the sheer numbers of men out there perusing the Internet or cruising the streets looking to buy someone for sex.
The next sting should be 72 hours in cities across the country to pick up all the Johns as well as rescuing the children. Every John that is picked up should be identified in local papers. To me, it is a matter of public safety. If you know that your neighbour likes to pick up little girls or boys you can then make sure your children don’t fall prey to his deviant attraction.
The next phase of the operation should be to shut down online sites that are used to sell these children. As is often the case with those fighting sex trafficking, checking the classifieds yields results. While the rest of us are buying and selling furniture or clothes others are using it to buy and sell human beings. When the pages of these sites clearly are designed for this, it should be a no-brainer that something must be done to eliminate their piece of the profit.
There is far too much acceptance by all of us to allow these businesses to make money, at arm’s length, from criminal activity. Why are they not considered an accessory to a crime? They are assisting in the commission of a crime and you can’t tell me they don’t notice what the johns and others can plainly see. Exploitive ads and pictures that promote sexual services, in particular services with minors, is a dead giveaway.
These children who were rescued have a long road ahead. They require extensive and comprehensive supports to keep them safe. These children grow up to be adults who can easily be on the streets until they acquire a life threatening disease or die at the hands of a pimp or John. Stings like this one make for good news but this story will disappear rather quickly. In the shadow of our neighbourhoods, the bars and through the classifieds section of paper and online publications more girls and boys will be sold to satisfy someone’s husband, boyfriend, uncle, son or father.
Update: A day after writing this post news broke that in Canada, Winnepeg police and the RCMP are looking into website Backpage.com, a US based company. It has been alleged all along that websites like Backpage.com, Craigslist and Kijiji have found their pages used to advertise sex; one description assigned to these sites was “Online pimps.” With some public pressure Kijiji made efforts to curb the sale of women and girls through their pages but still it prevails, especially in Backpage and Craigslist. Time will tell if so-called legitimate businesses citizens such as these will be forced to play a more active role in policing their own virtual street.