It's one thing to be known for things like incessant rain, suicide and atheism. It's quite another to be known as the No. 1 city in the country for child prostitution. Regardless, that's what the FBI is calling the Seattle area yet again after a nationwide child prostitution crime sweep that netted 885 arrests and freed 69 kids between 12 and 17-years-old--23 of them from the Seattle, Everett and Tacoma areas.
Dubbed "Operation Cross Country V," the effort involved 34 FBI agencies in 40 different cities. It was aided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Innocence Lost National Initiative.
The sweep hit child prostitution hotspots like truck stops, street "tracks" and casinos.
Of the 885 arrests, 99 were suspected pimps. And of those alleged pimps, nine were from the Seattle area.
The effort comes less than two weeks after Sterling Terrance Hospedales, a former sergeant with the 4th Stryker Brigade at the Ft. Lewis Army Base, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for pimping two young runaway girls.
Steven Dean, an agent with the Seattle FBI office, says that even before the latest sweep, authorities had taken 50 child prostitutes off the streets in King County alone. It's the third year in row that he says Seattle has been at the top of the list of worst cities for child prostitution.
In an interview with KING 5 News, he described how some children are abducted and forced into sexual slavery.
"They would see a young lady at the mall, maybe see her a couple of times, talks to her, gets her phone number, maybe finds out where she goes to school, says she's very pretty, maybe interested in modeling. Next thing you know he's picked her up and hits her on the head. Next thing she knows she's in Portland. A couple of days later, she's on the 'track.'"
As for why western Washington is such a magnet for child pimps and their prostitutes, Dean could only guess.
"Maybe because it's this West Coast circuit that these pimps take our young kids from Seattle to Portland to Vegas to California."