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996 Sex Workers Busted in FBI's Last 'Operation Cross Country,' Says Comey

That's 332 times as many sex workers arrested in the stings as people indicted on federal charges involving a minor.

screenshot FBI OCC bust/YouTubescreenshot FBI OCC bust/YouTubeBefore his sudden dismissal last week, one of the last things FBI Director James Comey did in office was testfiy before the Senate Judiciary Hearing about the agency's "programs and priorities for the coming year"—including Operation Cross Country, the annual FBI-led prostitution roundup that I covered in Reason's March issue. Publicized as an attack on child sex-trafficking, Operation Cross Country (OCC) mainly targets adult sex workers and their would-be clients. And according to Comey, last year's bust yielded nearly double the number of prostitution arrests as Reason previously estimated.

In Operation Cross Country 10, which went down over several days in October 2016, the FBI coordinated stings in 135 cities, with participation from 55 FBI field offices and agents of 400 city, county, state, and federal law-enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations. Their efforts yielded just 10 federal indictments as of May 2017, and only three cases involving any actual juveniles. In those cases, none of the victims—two 17-year-old girls and one 15-year-old girl—allege abduction, abuse, threats, forcible detainment, or other mistreatment of any kind at the hands of the defendants.

Meanwhile, police and FBI agents arrested 996 "adult prostitution subjects" in OCC 10, according to Comey's May 3 testimony. That's 332 times as many sex workers arrested in the stings as people indicted on federal charges involving a minor.

Granted, there were some "pimps" arrested on state and local charges. But these were reserved for cases that didn't involve minors and, in almost all cases, excluded adult victims as well. Pimping and related charges—like promoting prostitution, deriving proceeds from prostitution, aiding and abetting prostitution, keeping a bawdy place, etc.—don't require injury to any particular party, and can be levied against anyone who drives an adult to a prostitution appointment, posts ads for a sex worker (even if they're also in the ads), or is otherwise involved in one iota of a commercial sexual transaction between consenting adults.

Comey also noted in his recent testimony that 1,254 "johns"—prostitution customers—have been arrested as a part of OCC since it was launched in 2008. He did not say how many customers were arrested last year specifically, but my tally yielded at least 175 solicitation arrests in OCC 10.

Comey also failed to say how many prostitution arrests have been made throughout Operation Cross Country overall. But we do have this year's official tally, along with FBI arrest numbers from the first few operations: 290 prostitution arrests in OCC 1, 518 prostitution arrests in OCC 2, around 600 prostitution arrests in the fourth iteration, and 661 prostitution arrests in the fifth. If we assume arrests in years where we are missing data mirror the previous operation's tally (an assumption that almost certainly lowballs things, as the eighth and ninth operations were much bigger than the fifth), we wind up with something like 6,227 prostitution arrests.

Remember, Operation Cross Country has taken place just 10 times, for less than one week each iteration. But the FBI and Homeland Security also help with similar local stings all year long. In emailing with FBI field-office representatives about last year's sting, several mentioned that it was just one small part of ongoing collaboration to the same effect. Since we have no reason to assume these operations yield radically different results than OCC, it suggests the 6,227 sex-worker arrests spearheaded by the FBI between June 2008 and October 2016 are just the tip of it.

Photo Credit: screenshot FBI OCC bust/YouTube

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  • Citizen X - #6||

    Hey, that's 996 people rescued from a life of sex work for the low, low cost of getting irrevocably embedded into the criminal-industrial complex.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    In Operation Cross Country 10, which went down over several days in October 2016, the FBI coordinated stings in 135 cities, with participation from 55 FBI field offices and agents of 400 city, county, state, and federal law-enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations. Their efforts yielded just 10 federal indictments as of May 2017, and only three cases involving any actual juveniles. In those cases, none of the victims—two 17-year-old girls and one 15-year-old girl—allege abduction, abuse, threats, forcible detainment, or other mistreatment of any kind at the hands of the defendants.

    Where I come from we call that money well spent.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Where I come from

    A chinchilla cage in Poughkeepsie.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    That is not true.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I'm sorry. A chinchilla cage in Yonkers.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    How is the IPA filled rodent water bottle working out? Now you can have Zeb over for a visit.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Probably not well. Chinchillas are randy drunks.

  • Tionico||

    on what LEGAL basis?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    In Operation Cross Country 10, which went down over several days in October 2016, the FBI coordinated stings in 135 cities, with participation from 55 FBI field offices and agents of 400 city, county, state, and federal law-enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations. Their efforts yielded just 10 federal indictments as of May 2017, and only three cases involving any actual juveniles.

    Look, if they were any good at math, they would have gone into engineering or something instead of the bureaucracy.

  • Crusty Juggler aka "Chad"||

    Epic troll!

  • ||

    *

  • paranoid android||

    Very bad. Too many connotations of sodomy-loving Greeks and poetry, which is inherently unmasculine.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    ^ human trafficker

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Make that 997.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    the 6,227 sex-worker arrests spearheaded by the FBI between June 2008 and October 2016 are just the tip of it

    Nice.

  • blackjack||

    she said "just the tip"

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    So does this mean Comey wasn't a great loss to the country's premier armed bureaucracy?

  • Tionico||

    I wonder on WHAT Constituional authority FedGov base their decision to expend FedBux on local law enforcement, let alone the management/prosecution of mutual transactions between consenting free agent adults. I've read the Constitution multiple times, and can recall NO authority granted FedGov. In fact, they are forbidden policing (which is what this action amounts to) of criminal activity on a local level. If a pimp coerced their workers and transported them across state lines as a "necessary" part of their activity, then FedLaw MIGHT apply... but even that is a stretch. Not even the involvement of minors is open to federal law enforcement activity.

    I'd like to see some figures as to what this operation COSTS, to include the processing, prosecution,legal costs of prosecution AND defense, incarceration, follow-up activity mandated by the court...... my guess is into a few $Bn. Is THIS a wise, let alone legal, expenditure of MY tax dollars? I believe prostitution is immoral.... but so is drunkenness, adultery, sodomy. WHY are FedBux spent on such activities?

  • Mockamodo||

    They claim they're really after child traffickers and the 99.99% of non-children arrested are just peripheral arrests. Like almost everything the federal government does they look for 'loopholes' in the constitution they can use to perform unconstitutional actions. The ICA was intended to allow the federal government to prevent the states from impeding interstate commerce, so Alabama can't prevent the commercial transport of dildos from Mississippi to Georgia, and SC can't stop GA cotton from going to NC in order to make their own cotton more profitable. Federal politicians claim it also gives them the power to prevent interstate commerce, which gives them the power to prohibit drugs because drugs cross state lines, even giving them authority to outlaw growing a grass plant in your own home for your own use because by growing your own grass you aren't buying the grass that the federal government has made illegal and you are thereby interfering with the price market of illicit grass, which means you're affecting interstate commerce which gives them jurisdiction. It's perfectly clear if you drop enough ecstasy and look at it through lots of smoke and mirrors

  • Beatrix||

    I read the FBI receives a $100,000,000 annual appropriation to perform these sweeps. That doesn't count the multitude of state and local resources expended. Expensive moral crusade. The money could be spent on children who don't have enough to eat in the U.S. or even given to the youth who find no alternative to sex work to support themselves. The law enforcement and so called rescue industry get the funding, not the people who really need it.

    And the rescue industry frequently require women to attend religious meetings and other faith-based activities as part of their supposed rehabilitation. What ever happened to separation of church and state?

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