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Operation Cross Country VI: FBI’s campaign to “rescue” youth continue to cause mass arrests of adult women

Date: June 25, 2012

I’ve been collecting data to keep track of all prostitution arrests (mostly adult women who are selling sex) in Portland area for the last several months for a project I am working on right now, and noticed an unusual spate of arrests over last week. It was quite depressing to see so many women being criminalized and imprisoned for simply trying to survive, so I wrote this comment on my facebook wall:

EmiKo Yama – Saturday at 9:34pm
There have been 14 arrests of women engaging in prostitution in Multnomah and Washington counties in the last week. At least half of them have been arrested for the same offense in the last year, and three in the last couple of months. One woman has been arrested 10 times in less than a year (and the only reason she wasn’t arrested any more than that is that she spent much of last year in jail). Why is our government wasting resources criminalizing people instead of using the same resource providing real options?

One of the reasons arrest records seemed unusual last week was that they were spread out to various parts of Portland as well as to surrounding cities of Gresham and Beaverton: ordinarily, East Precinct of Portland Police Bureau arrests vast majority of the women, followed by North and Central precincts.

On Monday (June 25th), I find the explanation: over the weekend, FBI and local law enforcement authorities around the nation have conducted yet another installment of Operation Cross Country, the coordinated nationwide three-day hunt for victims of “commercial sexual exploitation of children” (CSEC, or as I’d like to call it, CSEY with “children” replaced with “youth”). According to the FBI Innocence Lost Initiative press release, this iteration resulted in “recovery of 79 children” and arrests of “104 pimps” by the 47 FBI-local task forces over the three days (FBI does not disclose which three days, I assume they were June 20-22 based on the unusual spike in the arrest data).

Interestingly, FBI did not release the total number of arrests, which includes “pimps,” buyers, and sellers of sex, as they did in the past. During the Operation Cross Country V (November 2010), for example, FBI reported that 885 people were arrested overall, 99 of which were “pimps.” Since arrests of buyers is extremely rare, it is reasonable to assume that the vast majority of arrests that were not for the “pimps” were arrests of people who trade sex, mostly women (including trans women). OCC-V claims to have “rescued” 69 minors from CSEY nationwide, while more than 10x women were arrested for basically doing the exact same things these young people were doing. We are unable to make a similar comparison of scale because FBI chose not to publish the number of all arrests.

Below is an updated chart summarizing the information released by FBI through its press releases.

Spotty Data from FBI’s Operation Cross Country sweeps
Source: FBI press releases

  Date City Rescues Arrests Rescues TD Convictions TD
0 12/16/2005 14 30 19   67
1 6/25/2008 16 21 389 433 308
2 10/27/2008 29 49 642 (73 pimps, 518 pros) 577 365
3 2/23/2009 29 48 571 670  
4 10/26/2009 36 52 700 (60 pimps) 900 510
5 11/8/2010 40 69 885 (99 pimps) 1200 625
6 6/25/2012 57 79 104 pimps; total unknown 2200+ 1017

Date = Date the operation was announced in a press release. Typically, the stings take place during the 72 hours before the announcement.
City = Number of cities in which stings took place.
Rescues = Number of minors FBI claims to have “rescued.”
Arrests = Number of arrests made. This may include adult prostitutes, clients, as well as pimps (FBI doesn’t fully disclose the breakdown).
Rescues TD = Number of minors FBI claims to have “rescued” to date since Innocence Lost Initiative began.
Convictions TD = Number of convictions FBI claims have resulted from Innocence Lost Initiative.

The number of cities participating in Operation Cross Country is based on multiple news reports.

While the FBI press release does not provide some information that previous press releases did, it details division-by-division breakdown of all “recoveries” and “pimp arrests,” which is fascinating. Here are the numbers:

“Juvenile Recovery” and “Pimp Arrest” by FBI Division
Source: FBI press release, 06/25/2012

Div J# P# Div J# P# Div J# P# Div J# P#
Albuquerque 0 0 Atlanta 3 5 Baltimore 0 1 Birmingham 0 0
Boston 1 3 Chicago 3 3 Cleveland 0 1 Dallas 6 0
Denver 2 3 Detroit 6 3 El Paso 1 1 Houston 0 1
Indianapolis 0 0 Knoxville 0 0 Las Vegas 4 4 Los Angeles 5 3
Miami 2 4 Milwaukee 6 0 Minneapolis 0 4 Newark 0 3
New Orleans 3 10 New York City 1 1 Oklahoma City 3 7 Omaha 0 2
Philadelphia 2 2 Phoenix 2 1 Portland 3 6 Richmond 0 2
Sacramento 6 6 St. Louis 2 2 San Antonio 0 2 San Diego 2 7
San Francisco 6 7 Seattle 6 7 Tampa 3 3 Washington 1 0
Totals 79 104                  

Note: Divisions are different from city limits. For example, FBI’s “Portland” field office covers the entire state of Oregon, not just Portland and its surrounding area, and excludes its northern suburb of Vancouver, Washington (which is included in “Seattle” office).

According to this breakdown, “Portland” division of FBI working with local authorities “recovered” three young people in the sex trade, while arresting six “pimps.” However, the data I have collected from Multnomah County only shows only two arrests for “promoting prostitution.” In the meantime, there were nine arrests of adult women for selling sex.

Because FBI’s “Portland” division covers the entire state of Oregon, rather than just Multnomah County, it is possible that four other “pimp” arrests took place in the rest of the state. But this is unlikely not just because Portland is the largest population center for the state, but also because Portland is the only city in Oregon with an FBI Innocence Lost Task Force agreement (as far as I know).

One plausible explanation for the discrepancy is that the four unidentified “pimps” were minors themselves. That would explain why I can only identify arrest data for two “pimps” in public information even though there were supposedly six of them. The two people whose information is made public were also young, at ages 21 and 25. I’m going to see if I could find out if this is the case.

In the next post, I’m going to provide a roundup of local media reports about the Operation Cross Country VI. Local media often interview local police for further information, resulting in more detailed data not available in FBI press release.

2 Comments »

  1. Great reporting. Very informative. Thank you so much for this.

    Comment by Aphrodite Phoenix — June 26, 2012 @ 4:37 am

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