Federal and local authorities rescued 12 children who were being victimized as prostitutes and arrested 17 alleged pimps in the Bay Area during a five-day sweep that ended Sunday, the head of the FBI’s San Francisco office announced today.

Special Agent in Charge David Johnson said the Bay Area effort was part of nationwide FBI program dubbed Operation Cross Country.

Altogether, 105 minors were rescued and 150 suspected pimps arrested across the country, according to the FBI.

“The issue and crime of child prostitution is not going away anytime soon,” Johnson said.

“The sexual exploitation of children could be happening in your neighborhood, so we need the public’s help in combating this unthinkable, yet real, crime,” he said.

FBI spokeswoman Julianne Sohn said the 17 people arrested in the Bay Area are currently in local custody.

Under normal protocol, Sohn said, district attorneys and federal prosecutors will confer on what charges might be filed and whether the suspects should be charged in state or federal court.

The Bay Area sweep, carried out between Wednesday and Sunday, included arrests on the street and at hotels, Sohn said.

Law enforcement agencies from Alameda, Contra Costa and Sonoma counties participated, as well as police from 13 cities.

Those cities were Concord, Daly City, Hayward, Oakland, Petaluma, Richmond, Rohnert Park, San Francisco, San Jose, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Rosa and South San Francisco, according to the FBI.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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