(RNN) - The FBI announced Monday that 105 children involved in sex trafficking had been recovered in 76 U.S. cities.
The youngest victim was 13 years old. In a news conference, the bureau spokesmen reported the 72-hour operation also netted the arrest of 150 pimps.
"Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America," said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division. "This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere, and the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable."
Another official said recovering the victims was "the biggest cause for acclaim." But the FBI was also getting a better understanding of where kids in similar situations come from and how they get there.
Between 70 and 90 percent were sexually abused as children, the FBI stated. Traffickers often preyed on youth with low self esteem or minimal support from families.
Hosko said typical victims were found in the age range of 13 to 16. He said the FBI hoped to spur potential solutions and increase support for victim services.
John Ryan of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also spoke. The group works with the FBI and other law enforcement in a support capacity.
Ryan credited Operation Cross Country with saving lives and bringing violent criminals to justice. He also said they have learned more about the connection between victims of trafficking and abuse or neglect that may have led to it.
"Many of these children don't have concerned families looking for them," Ryan said. "In our reports we receive, 60 percent were in foster care or group homes when they ran away."
The effort was done as part of the Innocence Lost initiative. It has resulted in more than 2,700 children recovered from trafficking and 1,300-plus pimps and madams arrested since its inception.
Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.