An FBI sting resulted in the rescue of 16 children and the arrest of more than 45 alleged pimps and their associates who admitted to have participated in a sex trade ring at the Super Bowl in New Jersey over the weekend.
"High-profile special events, which draw large crowds, have become lucrative opportunities for child prostitution criminal enterprises," said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, in a statement released Tuesday. "The FBI and our partners remain committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and putting those who try to profit from this type of criminal activity behind bars."
The children reportedly ranged in ages from 13 to 17 years old, and some had been reported missing from their families. A number of women were also rescued in the operation, with officials noting that 70 women and children were provided with food, clothing, and referrals to health care facilities, shelters, and other programs.
The FBI has long been tackling child prostitution and sex rings in America, with the Super Bowl operation part of an Innocence Lost National Initiative established between the FBI and several organizations working for children's safety. Over 3,100 children have reportedly been saved thanks to the initiative so far, while over 1,400 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences.
"Through partnerships, enhanced as a result of this operation, we hope to build a lasting framework that helps the community address this problem. It's easy to focus on this issue in light of a high-profile event, but the sad reality is, this is a problem we see every day in communities across the country," added Michael Harpster, chief of the FBI's Violent Crimes Against Children Section.
According to CNN, lawmakers have noted that the Super Bowl, being one of the biggest sporting events of the year in America, sheds the spotlight on an issue that many do not recognize the sheer size of.
"The prevalence of this problem at the Super Bowl allows us to focus national attention on it. But it is a problem seven days a week, 52 weeks a year for the children who are caught up in it. We owe it to them to develop real solutions," Rep. David Reichert (R-Washington) said at a recent hearing.
New York law enforcement authorities have been cracking down on prostitution rings and breaking up planned Super Bowl parties of drugs and sex to clients, The Associated Press reported.
In one particular incident, more than half of 18 suspects were arrested last week for planned prostitution parties ahead of the Super Bowl, including a Long Island woman identified as the ring leader.