FBI says 168 kids rescued, 281 pimps nabbed in sex-trafficking bust

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Agents say they rescued 168 children, including five girls in Fresno County. (KFSN)

The FBI announced the results of a nationwide operation targeting child sex trafficking. Agents say they rescued 168 children, including five girls in Fresno County.

Video provided by the FBI shows undercover agents setting up a date with a young prostitute through an online ad -- then doing surveillance at a motel to rescue the child and arrest the pimp. Stings like this one in Mississippi took place in 106 cities across the nation last week.

FBI Special Agent Monica Miller said, "This operation targeted venues such as truck stops, motels, casinos, internet websites and social media platforms, which always seem to be where these predators lurk."

The FBI's Sacramento division worked with state and local authorities to target child sex trafficking in Sacramento, Solano and Fresno counties. In the Fresno area alone, they recovered five girls between 15 and 16 years old, and arrested one alleged pimp.

"This is not happening in some far away land in a third world country," said Agent Miller. "This is happening right here in our communities and on our streets, and it really must stop."

Agents say social media has led to an increase in child prostitution. Predators lure in their young victims by filling voids in their lives -- and then force them to have sex through manipulation, intimidation, and abuse.

During this operation, a total of 281 suspected pimps were arrested on state and federal charges, but the kids may also end up in custody.

FBI Special Agent Gabriela Betance said, "If the juvenile has a place to go and a safe home, then they go home. If we determine it's not a safe place for them to go, then we try to find them a shelter or group home, or at very worst they end up at juvenile hall."

The FBI says this latest operation was the largest in its history, but agents are working every day to stop these crimes and asking the public and other agencies for support.

"I wish there were more services available, and I'm hoping that is going to happen as our awareness increases," said Agent Betance. "I just wish that we could help more girls."

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