It’s been about a week since the FBI performed their massive sting operation that busted 281 pimps and 168 exploited children being sold for sex. 

Discussing the hard, sad realities of what is becoming more frequent to our children in the United States is nothing short of mood killer in any situation. The short answer is that there is no comfortable time to talk about the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) quickly out pacing drugs for criminals to make money.

Perhaps it’s the difficulty of the topic on a community level is the reason why the FBI sting that happened last week, rescued 63 more children since  the 2013 sweep (up 37%) and an a terrifying 131 more pimps (up 46%). There are some possible reasons why the numbers are increasing: law informants is receiving better training on recognizing perpetrators and victims, the media attention CSEC is getting in the United States has gone up, and criminals are attracted to the low risk, high profit of grooming children as young as 12 years old into a life of sexual exploitation.

To dive a bit deeper, I looked at one of the FBI’s press releases and found a graph on what arrest rates for pimps and saved children. It’s a good chart, but what I was hungry for was the states and cites that the stings had successful arrests and recoveries.  So here's a chart from the FBI's data that broke down the states as well as the cities, arrests, and rescues:

State City Children Pimps
  Anchorage 0 3
  Birmingham 1 3
  Phoenix 5 21
  Little Rock 2 5
  Los Angeles 10 12
  Sacramento 9 7
  San Diego 2 6
  San Francisco 6 13
  TOTAL 27 38
  Denver 18 11
  New Haven 1 1
District of Columbia      
  Washington (WFO) 0 2
  Miami 3 4
  Tampa 8 3
  TOTAL 11 7
  Atalnta 11 15
  Chicago 13 4
  Springfield 2 1
  TOTAL 15 5
  Indianapolis 4 3
  Kansas City 2 7
  Louisville 0 4
  New Orleans 3 17
  Baltimore 2 5
  Detroit 5 6
  Minneapolis 1 9
  Jackson 2 19
  St. Louis 0 1
  Las Vegas 7 2
New Jersey      
  Newark 1 8
New York      
  Buffalo 2 0
  New York 3 3
  Total 5 3
  Omaha 1 2
North Carolina      
  Charlotte 0 3
  Cincinnati 0 1
  Clevland 16 12
  Total 16 13
  Okalhoma City 2 14
  Portland 0 3
  Philidelphia 0 2
  Pittsburg 0 3
  TOTAL 0 5
South Carolina      
  Columbia 1 2
  Knoxville 0 1
  Memphis 2 5
  TOTAL 2 6
  Dallas 2 2
  El Paso 0 1
  Houston 4 4
  San Antonio 6 3
  TOTAL 12 10
  Richmond 0 2
  Norfolk 0 1
  TOTAL 0 3
  Seattle 4 13
  Milwaukee 2 12

I highlighted the places that had double digits for rescues and arrests. Most of the highlighted states and cities have a history of CSEC related crimes. However, some surprises were Colorado, Georgia, and Illinois having such a high rate - as they have not shown up in our previous research as hot spots. Also the total number of states involved in the FBI's sting was 36, or 72% of the country had CSEC activity involved with the sting.

Many of the cities  - such as Memphis, Tennessee; Anchorage, Alaska; Little Rock, Arkansas and many more - are not what many would consider places where trafficking occurs. Alaska, being one of the biggest shockers for how "remote" it is. What's even more scary is that many of the children were probably from other smaller towns and moved to these cities. 

One of the best ways to start fighting this is to learn more about CSEC. ECPAT USA has a great overview of the issue in their CSEC FAQ.  Another good step is being bale to recognize a victim of child trafficking. The UK's NSPCC has a great description of some common traits of a trafficking victim.  If you think a child may be trafficked, do not confront the child or the trafficker as it may put you or the child in further danger. Call the police or reach out to your local children's services.

Lastly, the best way to fight is to simply talk about it. Bring it up in awkward silences over coffee. Mention you are thinking about supporting a local charity. Say you learned something new today. Talk about it with your kids and other parents. The best way to stop this shadowy threat to our nation's kids is to put it under a bright light of recognition.

 - Jon Meyer, Do-Gooder Co-Founder