FBI saves children from alleged pimps in sex trafficking sting

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 29, 2013 at 10:26 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 29 at 10:41 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- Over 100 kids are safe after a sweeping three-day human trafficking sting.

Some of those young victims were rescued right in New Orleans.

"It happens everywhere. It could be your neighbors next door," said Alex, a young victim of sexual trafficking.

The 21-year-old suddenly found herself on the street when she was 15. A year later, she turned to prostitution and quickly fell under the influence of a pimp.

"At first it was terrifying, but then you become numb to it," said Alex.

A 72-hour nationwide human trafficking sting helped rescue kids like Alex this past weekend.

"For Louisiana we had 76 arrests and six child recoveries. If you're going to stack us up with the rest of the country, we're tied for fifth in the most recoveries of juveniles," said FBI New Orleans Special Agent In Charge Michael Anderson.

In New Orleans, the FBI says four kids, one pimp and 17 adult prostitutes were recovered in the sting.

"The fact that we had those kind of statistics for end of July is a little concerning. It wasn't over the Super Bowl. It wasn't over Jazz Fest or other big events," said Anderson.

"New Orleans is a hub for entertainment, a hub for tourism, and as a result its likely a hub for trafficking," said Laura Murphy, founder of the New Orleans Human Trafficking Working Group.

Murphy, who is also a Loyola Assistant Professor, said human traffickers are drawn to the Crescent City. The multi-agency collaboration led by the FBI is helping to tackle the problem in better ways.

"I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. We're talking about hundreds of children in the city alone that are being prostituted," said Murphy.

As for Alex, after finally reaching out to the feds for help, she's now working on a new start.

For those who find themselves in her old shoes, one survivor offers up these words of wisdom:

"They can take everything from you. Your voice, your freedom, they can take your fight, your will. You can't let them take your heart. You always have to keep fighting," said Alex.

Operation Cross Country began in 2003 through an FBI partnership with the Department of Justice and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children to address child prostitution.

Since it started, officials say more than 2,700 children have been recovered.

 

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