Helping forced teen prostitution victims in NJ
Teen prostitution has become such a significant problem in New Jersey that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is now asking for the public's help in cracking down on the individuals who force girls and young women to participate in this activity.
Earlier this month, as part of Operation Cross Country, the FBI saved 149 juveniles, identified as human trafficking victims, including six in New Jersey.
Officials say more than 4,800 children have been recovered through the FBI's Innocence Lost initiative.
The bureau now has 73 child exploitation task forces operating across the nation in an effort to stop teen prostitution, according to Special Agent Celeste Danzi, spokeswoman for the FBI's Newark office
“Many of these juveniles are running from bad situations and are being manipulated by either a relative or an individual close to them,” Danzi said. “In other cases, they may be addicted to drugs or want the money for this activity, but whatever the case is they are juveniles and we consider them victims.”
She said victims who are rescued are offered a variety of services and assistance.
“These services include reunification to the parent or guardian, food and clothing, transportation, shelter referrals and mental health and legal aid referrals,” Danzi said, “We need to look after these juveniles who many times have no one else to turn to, or are being exploited by those closest to them.”
She said forced underage prostitution is happening in towns and cities all over New Jersey, and some venues are more prone to it than other.
"The most likely venues for this activity are truck stops, casinos and hotels, but also when there’s a large sporting event that also attracts this sex trafficking,” Danzi said.
So how can you help to stop this from happening?
“We just ask the public to keep their eyes open and report something to their local law enforcement if they observe numerous men coming in and out of a location,” Danzi said, "Also, if you notice numerous younger females going into a location that could also be a sign of a bad situation."
Over the past nine years, the FBI has recovered almost 5,000 juveniles and 2,000 people have been arrested and convicted on sex trafficking charges.
The FBI is now partnering with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to turn the tide on this despicable crime.