Hundreds of people have been arrested and 21 children rescued in what the FBI is calling a five-day roundup of networks of pimps who force children into prostitution. In all, authorities arrested 345 people, including 290 adult prostitutes, during the operation that ended this week in 16 major cities. "The sex trafficking of children remains one of the most violent and unforgivable crimes in this country," said FBI chief Robert Mueller.
Many of the children forced into prostitution are either runaways or what authorities call "thrown-aways"—kids whose families have shunned them. Officials say they are preyed upon by organized networks of pimps who lure them in with shelter or drugs, then often beat, starve or otherwise abuse them until the children agree to work the streets. The Internet makes liaisons easier to set up.