Mayor, DA Brown Announce New Program To Wipe Out Child Prostitution
A federally funded pilot program designed to enhance the prosecution of pimps who lure children into prostitution and sexually exploit them was announced on Monday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.
The mayor described the problem as a horrible crime that causes physical and emotional damage which can never be undone. “To go after the criminals who exploit children, we need the cooperation of their victims—which means getting them the help they need so that they can break away from those who exploit them,” he said.
The mayor said the new program, called Operation Guardian, “will get pimps off the streets and in jail, and get their victims the help they need.”
Brown stated, “In my view there can be no public safety issue more compelling than to protect our children from sexual exploitation in organized prostitution. Law enforcement, government and the social service community must take every step possible to prevent such victimization of children and rescue those trapped in its snare from human bondage that destroys their innocence, hope and dreams.”
Explaining the conditions that led to the new initiative, Brown said that since 2000, more than 70 children aged 16 and under have been arrested and charged in Queens County with prostitution or loitering for prostitution. He said his office prosecutes about two new cases every month against defendants who promote underage prostitution.
Since 2000, he explained, 63 pimps have been prosecuted in Queens for prostituting young women less than 19 years of age, including 35 pimps who were prosecuted for prostituting children aged 16 and under and sent to prison to serve sentences of up to 12 years.
Last year, the DA said, 150 children under 17 were arrested for prostitution citywide, 53 of them in Queens.
According to Brown, Operation Guardian is being funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The initiative draws upon resources and staff from his office’s Special Prosecution Bureau, the New York Police Department’s Child Recovery Unit and the Mount Sinai Hospital’s Sexual Assault Victims Intervention (SAVI).
At the press conference announcing the new initiative in Brown’s Kew Gardens office, SAVI Executive Director Iona Siegal stated: “Child sexual exploitation is a violation of children’s fundamental rights. When youths are exposed to disease, drugs and physical and sexual violence, it perpetuates the cycle of violence.
“A SAVI clinician will work closely with the Queens District Attorney’s office to provide counseling and make referrals for medical care and educational opportunities. Our goal is to help youth in their struggle to be healthy, self-sufficient and safe.”
Brown said the new program offers an opportunity to work as a team with police and SAVI to aggressively and proactively identify, investigate and prosecute criminals who sexually exploit children by prostituting them in a modern-day version of slavery and human trafficking.
Representing the Police Department at the conference was Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
Brown added that the mayor was to be very much commended for his leadership in helping to develop this very important initiative and for the support that he continues to give to the law enforcement community during these difficult times.