Three Austin children rescued from sex trafficking KVUE
AUSTIN -- Hotel rooms, truck stops and massage parlors are the most common places children are victimized and working as prostitutes according to the FBI.
"I think a lot of us are really misinformed about the fact that this is only taking place in, you know, some third world country around the globe. It's taking place in small town USA," said FBI San Antonio Special Agent Michelle Lee.
FBI and police held a news conference Monday announcing results from Operation Cross Country VIII, a four day undercover sting to rescue children from sex trafficking. Nationwide, 168 children were recovered. Three of them were from San Antonio where one adult was arrested and three of the children were from Austin. Two Austin, women accused of selling the children, were arrested.
"These are our children, our community, our children that are being victimized each and every day," said Austin Police Assistant Chief Troy Gay.
Agents say prostitution rings target special events such as F1 or music festivals to get clients, making Austin a prime target.
"It's also happening to children that you wouldn't expect," added Lee. "There are kids that are middle class, normal children that live in nice neighborhoods, go to good schools which you would never dream would get involved in something like this."
So how does it happen? According to FBI agents, child prostitutes usually are not kidnapped but are recruited. Lee said the trend investigators are now seeing are traffickers luring children via social media websites.
"The child is originally told that they have a glamorous modeling career or acting career that they may have the opportunity to get in and slowly the pimp ends up having them engage in activities that are much more illicit," explained Lee.
Then traffickers blackmail them into doing more. Lee said gangs are also starting to turn to child sex trafficking to get money.
"It takes our whole community to step up, to report. It's up to us to let our victims, our children know is that there are people to talk to, that we do have resources and that this is not a life that they have to be exposed to," said Gay.
Agents say most arrest come from tips, so if you see suspicious activity at a hotel or major event, call police. Lee said there are key indicators of trafficking, especially at hotels.
"What they saw were two hotel rooms that were rented and they're usually an older male that is accompanied by younger females. And one room is the working hotel room and the other room is where everyone else usually stays and they have just a few, very limited belongings, but that is a very common setup that they have," Lee explained.
All of the children will now get counseling, medical care, food and clothes.