Teen rescued, 2 pimps arrested in nationwide sex sting

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The FBI says North Charleston police helped them rescue a teenager and arrested several other people following a nationwide child sex sting.

A Charleston FBI agent says five arrests and one teen rescued is a job well done in North Charleston last week.

"Crimes against children is a national threat and a local threat and in the intelligence we had, we looked at where is prostitution and where is potential child prostitution," says Brian Womble, a senior resident with the FBI Charleston branch.

He says Operation Cross Country targets sex traffickers and aims to end child sexual exploitation. In the Charleston area, the joint investigation led them to look at the hotel industry.

"The success of this operation is critical on the partnerships of the local police agencies. We partner with North Charleston police department. Their resources and intelligence helped drive the investigation operation," said Womble.

This is the first year the Charleston area participated in Operation Cross Country. Their recovery means one 16-year-old victim will soon be back home.

"Every child is important and certainly that's what we want to do. We want to not only recover the children, we want to focus and arrest and prosecute the people responsible for putting them in that situation," said Womble.

He said depending on who the person responsible is, it could mean arresting family members.

Cindy McElhinney with Darkness to Light, a local nonprofit, says 90 percent of the children who are sexually exploited have a history of sexual abuse.

"We know that if we can prevent sexual abuse we can reduce the risk of children being sexually trafficked later on in their lives," said McElhinney.

More than 100 cities participated in the operation. The national sting recovered 167 other children; many of those children were not reported missing by family or social services.

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