On a Tuesday afternoon in DC, a bus screeches to a halt inside the Union Station bus terminal, and off steps a 17-year-old black female.
Atlanta, Denver, New Orleans, and Jackson, Miss., also had double-digit busts.
This is the seventh Operation Cross Country prostitution sweep coordinated by the FBI and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), part of the decade-old federal Innocence Lost National Initiative.
That makes the post-raid stage "the most important and the most difficult in righting their lives," say Joshua Melvin and Robert Salonga at the .
And different authorities have different ideas about what the next best step is for these children: Police often want to keep the girls in protective custody to "break the connection with their former pimps," while many social service agencies have opposed that as being "more trauma for already brutalized people." Another issue is convincing the rescued prostitutes to quit, when "many teenagers, usually girls, willingly get involved in the sex trafficking believing that it's better than life at home," says Larry Lee at Wisconsin's WSAU radio.
"More girls are going to be sold at the Super Bowl than, probably, tickets," former child prostitute Asia Graves tells 's Tapper.
Graves, who now counsels other victims of human trafficking, says these crackdowns are "making a dent" in child prostitution, but to really address the problem, she adds, "you have to go after the 'johns' who are buying the sex," the "demand side." Watch her interview with Tapper: The suspected pimps who were arrested will be prosecuted, but the FBI considers the underage prostitutes sex trafficking victims, not perpetrators.The "rescue" is only the first step, though, and it doesn't guarantee a happy ending.Authorities try to connect the victims with social service agencies, with the goal being to get them out of the prostitution business.It was also the most successful, according to the FBI's Ron Hosko.To date, the Innocence Lost initiative has led to the recovery of more than 2,700 underage prostitutes and the conviction of 1,350 pimps.Outside the sex sold legally in Nevada, prostitution in the United States transpires in the shadows of an underground economy.