police-light-bar1.jpgAn operation targeting child prostitution rescued six teenage girls from Bay Area streets and resulted in the arrest of a large number of pimps and adult prostitutes, law enforcement officials said today.

The girls ranged in age from 15 to 17, FBI assistant special agent in charge Michael Gavin said at a news conference at the Hayward Police Department.

Four of the girls were working as prostitutes in Oakland, one in San Francisco and one in San Rafael, Gavin said.

The girls were recovered in the local prong of a nationwide enforcement action called Operation Cross Country, a joint operation the FBI, local law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an advocacy group.

The operation was carried out in 57 cities around the country between Wednesday and Saturday.

In the Bay Area, the operation law enforcement authorities arrested a total of 10 pimps and 65 adult prostitutes in addition to rescuing the six girls, FBI spokesman Peter Lee said.

Three of the pimps were arrested in Richmond, three others were arrested in Vallejo, two were arrested in San Francisco and one each were arrested in San Jose and San Rafael, Lee said.

In Richmond, officers from multiple agencies arrested three pimps and eight adult prostitutes, according to Lt. Bisa French. However, no underage girls were rescued, she said.

In Vallejo, authorities arrested three pimps and four adult prostitutes but didn’t rescue any underage girls, according to Sgt. Joe Iacono.

The adult prostitutes were arrested in various cities throughout the Bay Area, including eight in Richmond and four in Vallejo, he said.

Nationwide, 79 children were rescued and 104 pimps were arrested, Gavin said.

He said the underage girls who were rescued will be provided with support services aimed at permanently removing them from the prostitution trade.

“We want to give them help so they don’t get back to that life,” Gavin said.

Hayward police Chief Diane Urban said many child prostitutes are runaways who are blackmailed into that way of life by pimps who take advantage of them.

Urban said, “Many of them had a fight with a parent or a bad day at school and they fall into prostitution accidentally.”

She said, “I can assure you that young people don’t get involved in it because it’s a great job.”

Urban said, “Parents need to be involved” by paying attention to what their children are doing away from home and on the Internet.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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