Police in three Massachusetts communities have arrested three alleged pimps and 11 other people suspected of prostitution and drug charges, and took one underage girl off the streets, authorities said Tuesday.
The three-day undercover nationwide effort, dubbed Operation Cross Country, was organized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with cooperation from local police departments and the State Police. In Massachusetts, it ensnared 14 suspects in Malden, Saugus, and West Springfield, with the goal of targeting teenage sex trafficking.
“The goal is to recover juveniles who are sucked into this so-called vacuum of prostitution, and to treat them as victims and not arrestees,” said Malden Police Lieutenant Marc Gatcomb, who helped coordinate the Malden operation. “A lot of these individuals are viewed as victims now, too, under human trafficking [laws].”
In some of the cases, law enforcement responded to online listings advertising escort and companionship services to set up meetings with the suspects, and deployed marked bills to track cash to the pimps, according to police reports filed in Lynn District Court.
“Child prostitution remains a major threat to children across America,” said Kevin L. Perkins, acting executive assistant director of the FBI's Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch, in a statement. “We are working with our partners to disrupt and put behind bars individuals and members of criminal enterprises who would sexually exploit children.”
From Thursday through Saturday, more than 2,500 state, local, and federal officers worked in 57 cities and towns nationwide to rescue 79 youths and arrested 104 alleged pimps, the FBI announced Monday. In all, 11 people in Massachusetts were charged with exchanging sexual conduct for a fee.
Two of the alleged pimps arrested in Saugus were Dion D. Dottin, 36, of Medford, and Jonathan E. Brown of Mattapan, according to court records. Both were charged with one count of trafficking of persons for sexual servitude and two counts of deriving support from prostitution. Both pleaded not guilty at a Friday arraignment in Lynn and were ordered held on $10,000 and $25,000 bail, respectively, by District Court Judge Ellen Flatley. They are due back in court July 19 for a probable cause hearing.
Details about the location and arrest of third suspected pimp were unavailable.