News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, July 30, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- News 12 is learning new information about the suspects arrested in Richmond County as part of a nationwide sweep by the FBI called Operation Cross Country VII.
In all, investigators arrested 11 people, nine alleged prostitutes and two alleged pimps in our area for charges related to child sex trafficking in the sting. Click here to see the suspects' names and mugshots.
Agent Charles Kicklighter with the GBI says, "That's just, just the tip of the iceberg."
Sgt. Shane McDaniel with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office agrees, saying, "This is definitely something that we've seen as a problem.
Officials say runaway kids, especially teens and preteens, are targets for pimps.
"They give them food, clothing, buy them things, and then gradually move them into that role of you know, 'I've done this for you, now I want you to do this,'" Kicklighter said.
But, unfortunately, it's a crime officials say is only becoming more of a problem.
"With the Internet, Backpages, Craigslist, all the advertisements, it's so easy now," Kicklighter said.
And, with the problem growing, Kicklighter says they depend a lot on tips from the public.
"If you're staying in a motel and you see something that doesn't look right, a young girl with an older guy, or if you see any violence, or you notice a room where guys are in and out, all you've got to do is make an anonymous phone call to law enforcement," he said.
Officials say the Augusta area is popular for sex trafficking since a major interstate runs right through here.
"I-20 is a 1,500-mile long interstate with countless rest areas and truck stops," McDaniel said.
This, along with motels, which are all perfect places for pimps to arrange meet-ups.
But say, it's not just about locking up the pimps -- it's mostly about saving young kids and getting them out of that lifestyle before it's too late.
In this sting, 105 children and minors across the country were rescued. Local law enforcement agencies are assisting them with getting the counseling and services they need.