FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The FBI and other law enforcement agencies implemented a nationwide prostitution sting last week aimed at rescuing children from prostitution. An area judge says child prostitution isn’t common around Fort Wayne, but it is a reality. He says 10 child prostitutes have been arrested across the city over the past five years.
Undercover Fort Wayne officers arrested 10 prostitutes and a pimp during the nationwide prostitution sting. Police say all the suspects were 18 and over, but that doesn’t mean Fort Wayne doesn’t have child prostitutes.
Judge Daniel Heath with the Allen County Juvenile Court says the court goes through great lengths to break the cycle of child prostitution.
“When it does happen, it’s of course disturbing or shocking,” Heath said. “We’ve had young ladies from Illinois, Michigan, surrounding states come into Fort Wayne and engage in prostitution as minors.”
The average child prostitute in the Fort Wayne area is a 13 to 16-year-old girl, according to a Fort Wayne police sergeant. When a child prostitute is arrested in Fort Wayne, court officials have them go through extensive screenings.
“We want to bring an array of services to bear right away: STD testing, pregnancy testing, some therapy,” Heath explained. “But we also go through the delinquency process and find the appropriate services or detention if necessary for her own protection.”
The courts take a victim-centered philosophy when it comes to child prostitution cases.
“We know that there’s often some adult pushing that along somewhere. Somebody with evil intentions,” Heath said. “We’re bringing therapy into play and just basically trying to straighten out the lives that have obviously become very disoriented and out of kilter.”
Ultimately court officials try to place the children in a positive environment. Heath says much of the time, the child’s parents may be unstable, so they place the girls with other family members or the Department of Child Services.
When it comes to protecting children from prostitution, authorities say the kids will act withdrawn much of the time. Parents, guardians, and friends are encouraged to pay attention to their behavior, especially on the internet and social media.
This is the eighth time the FBI has launched Operation Cross Country, the prostitution sting which ran from June 16 to June 22. Nationwide, Crawford says the FBI (along with local and state law enforcement partners) recovered 167 child victims. Additionally, 281 pimps were said to be arrested. The FBI says this year brought the highest number of pimps arrested and children recovered in Operation Cross Country history.