RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a nationwide operation last week that brought the hammer down on child sex traffickers, and rescued minors trapped in the lifestyle.
During a news conference Monday, the FBI announced that Operation Cross Country VIII rescued 168 children and arrested 281 pimps in 106 cities across the United States. This operation also included a sweep in downtown Reno over the past weekend.
"Prostitution happens everywhere," said FBI Special Agent Sean Jolley. "It happens in farming communities, [and] it happens in larger cities. Wherever there is a gathering of people or an event, that brings different people in together."
In the past several years, law enforcement have noticed a pattern and an influx of prostitution during special events. While summer events kick off in our area, pimps also see a business opportunity.
"It’s very, very common to see the exploiters bring those girls from California to profit off those large scale events that we have in our community," said Reno Police Sergeant Ron Chalmers.
In this year's Operation Cross Country to recover as many sexually exploited children as possible, law enforcement focused on downtown Reno, and websites that cater to johns. "Most of our hotel room operations came from the internet, and the first night, 13 girls to the room from the internet," said Chalmers.
One 17-year-old girl was rescued, and 30 females ages 18 to 51 were arrested for prostitution. "We treat them as victims, because that's what they are," Jolley explained.
The average age for a girl to enter prostitution is 12-14, and many times, they grow up in the lifestyle, so adult prostitutes are given a chance. "“We take our enforcement action, but I give every girl that we arrest, the caveat that if you want out of the lifestyle, and participate with those programs, and I get a notice from the non-profits that the girls are doing well, then I’ll have the charges dismissed," said Chalmers.
While this weekend ended in arrests and rescues, authorities say it is a never ending battle. "The FBI is constantly doing this, and same with our local task force partners," said Jolley. "We are always working to combat this terrible crime."
As a result of this operation, the FBI and Regional Street Enforcement Team have launched other investigations to track down pimps who may have coerced or directed these women to prostitute themselves in Reno.