FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Undercover Fort Wayne police officers arrested 10 women and one man in a prostitution sweep Friday. The officers teamed up with the FBI during the sting. It was just one of more than 100 across the U.S. in a massive surge the FBI called “Operation Cross Country.”
FBI leaders tell News 18’s sister station WANE-TV, Operation Cross Country’s main goal is to rescue children from the cycle of prostitution.
“Child prostitutes can be located anywhere from hotels to casinos to truck stops. Often times they are found on internet websites,” said Dave Crawford, an FBI special agent in Fort Wayne. “Child prostitution is a problem nationwide. It’s a problem here in northeastern Indiana as well. We’re going to do everything we can to mitigate the threat of child prostitution.”
Undercover FWPD officers worked with FBI agents during the sting, investigating prostitution in multiple hotels in the area. None of the women arrested for prostitution in Fort Wayne were under the age of 18. Authorities say that’s a positive, but it doesn’t mean Fort Wayne doesn’t have child prostitutes.
“You’re looking at ages 13 to 16 as the common age for recruitment for juvenile prostitutes,” said Sgt. Mark Brooks with FWPD. “In recent months we’ve come across several juvenile prostitutes. We just didn’t happen to apprehend any during this operation.”
The 10 women arrested in Fort Wayne received prostitution charges. David Givhan, an alleged pimp, was arrested and charged with promoting prostitution.
This is the eighth time the FBI has launched Operation Cross Country, 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 during the sting. 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.
“If we apprehended a juvenile prostitute, it’s very common for them to be reported missing or runaway status,” Brooks explained. “Those juveniles are then referred to juvenile court. Juvenile court would then try to reunite them with their families.”
Brooks said girls get involved with pimps who, through flattery, gifts, and even drugs, end up gaining control of their every move.
“One of the ways that business managers will become involved with these juveniles is to wine and dine them, shower them with attention, take them to movies, get their nails done, their hair done. And then after that period’s over, after that honeymoon phase, they move to the ‘It’s time to pay up’ phase,” Brooks explained. “That’s where you start to see a cycle of abuse that can take place.”
Crawford added that pimps recruit children through victims’ friends and family members, on social networking sites, and within neighborhoods.
Authorities say it can be difficult to get the child prostitutes to cooperate with their investigations because they are afraid. Still Crawford and Brooks say authorities take child prostitution in our area very seriously.
“It’s not so much about punishment as it is trying to recover them and then get them back out of this lifestyle–break this lifestyle and get them back with their families,” Brooks said.
Authorities say the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health assisted during the sting by providing screenings for the women arrested.
If you think someone is involved in child prostitution, you’re asked to call police so they can intervene and break the cycle.