An operation targeting child prostitution rescued six teenage girls from Bay Area streets and resulted in the arrest of a large number of pimps and adult prostitutes, law enforcement officials said today.
The girls ranged in age from 15 to 17, FBI assistant special agent in charge Michael Gavin said at a news conference at the Hayward Police Department.
Four of the girls were working as prostitutes in Oakland, one in San Francisco and one in San Rafael, Gavin said.
The girls were recovered in the local prong of a nationwide enforcement action called Operation Cross Country, a joint operation the FBI, local law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an advocacy group.
The operation was carried out in 57 cities around the country between Wednesday and Saturday.
In the Bay Area, the operation law enforcement authorities arrested a total of 10 pimps and 65 adult prostitutes in addition to rescuing the six girls, FBI spokesman Peter Lee said.
Three of the pimps were arrested in Richmond, three others were arrested in Vallejo, two were arrested in San Francisco and one each were arrested in San Jose and San Rafael, Lee said.
San Rafael police saw a 16 year-old girl pacing on Medway Road around 6 p.m. on Friday, according to police spokeswoman Margo Rorhbacher.
"She was scantily dressed and appeared unfamiliar with the area," she said in a statement.
She told the officers that a man brought her to the area from Sacramento to work as a prostitute and she was able to lead detectives to the man, who was arrested in a gas station parking lot as he waited for her to return.
Fairfield resident Hershel Deontae Spencer, 21, was booked at on one felony charge of pandering. He remains in custody, with bail set at $30,000. The girl was taken to Marin County Juvenile Hall.
This is not an isolated incident, according Sgt. Raul Aguilar, who leads the Street Crimes Unit. “It is a fact that teenage prostitution is alive and well throughout the state of California," he said in a statemet. "We need more operations like this where officers in the Street Crimes Unit and other agencies help identify these children that are being exploited through prostitution. We need to work together to help them out of the street life.”
In Richmond, officers from multiple agencies arrested three pimps and eight adult prostitutes, according to Lt. Bisa French. However, no underage girls were rescued, she said.
In Vallejo, authorities arrested three pimps and four adult prostitutes but didn't rescue any underage girls, according to Sgt. Joe Iacono.
The adult prostitutes were arrested in various cities throughout the Bay Area, including eight in Richmond and four in Vallejo, he said.
Nationwide, 79 children were rescued and 104 pimps were arrested, Gavin said.
He said the underage girls who were rescued will be provided with support services aimed at permanently removing them from the prostitution trade.
"We want to give them help so they don't get back to that life," Gavin said.
Hayward police Chief Diane Urban said many child prostitutes are runaways who are blackmailed into that way of life by pimps who take advantage of them.
Urban said, "Many of them had a fight with a parent or a bad day at school and they fall into prostitution accidentally."
Urban said parents should stay involved by paying attention to what their children are doing away from home and on the Internet.
Bay City News Service