Two underage girls suspected of being prostitutes were rescued in metro Atlanta, and eight alleged pimps were arrested in a weekend, nationwide crackdown on child sex trafficking.
Nationwide, 150 arrests were made and 105 sexually exploited children were recovered during the three-day operation, the FBI announced Monday.
In the Atlanta area, federal officials said child prostitution remains a problem.
Sexual exploitation arrests like the ones made in metro Atlanta — and two more in the Augusta area — came in some cases as a result of the suspects’ online activity, FBI Atlanta spokesman Stephen Emmett said.
“Gone are the days of the red-light districts in each major city,” Emmett said. “This type of activity can happen in any suburb or major city because of the Internet.”
Law enforcement agencies, he said, are aware of the particular websites and chat rooms where ads promoting prostitution — and often hawking minors for sexual servitude — are posted.
The sweep took place in 76 cities and was carried out by the FBI in partnership with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The weekend crackdown, dubbed “Operation Cross Country VII,” was the seventh and largest such enforcement action to date, the FBI said.
Numbers have grown steadily year over year, federal officials said.
Even locally, the number of arrests has spiked.
“This is a record year from our (Atlanta) headquarters,” Emmett said. “Whether the crime problem increases or we’ve just become better at handling it remains to be seen.”
Arrests on pimping charges in Georgia and metro Atlanta have grown from just two in 2008 to 10 this year, he said.
In the sweep’s arrest of adult prostitutes, suspects were turned over to state or local law enforcement agencies and charged.
An ongoing effort to combat child sex trafficking utilizes digital billboards in population centers, such as metro Atlanta, where underaged prostitution is prevalent.
“America’s children are not for sale,” state the posters and billboards posted along major highways.