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The three-part initiative, called Operation Guardian, includes the development of a new group within the Queens district attorney's office to investigate and prosecute the pimps, a partnership with Mt. Sinai's Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention known as SAVI to support cooperating child prostitutes and a residential placement facility to house them outside New York City.The mayor announced the program alongside Queens DA Richard Brown, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Criminal Justice coordinator John Feinblatt and SAVI director Iona Siegel at a news conference at Brown's office.The program is being launched in Queens, according to the mayor, because 53 of 150 children arrested last year in the city for prostitution were from the borough, most of them drug abusers from broken homes. If it is successful, it will be expanded to the other boroughs, he said."The goal is to close down child prostitution operations, physically and financially. The district attorney's new team will use every tool in the toolbox to put the pimps in jail and to tear this business out by its roots," Bloomberg said.Brown said his office was prosecuting at least two pimps per month, and since 2000 the DA had brought cases against 63 people for promoting the trade of women under 19, including 35 prosecutions for girls under 16. He said prostitution has been a long-term issue for the borough, particularly an area in South Ozone Park around South Conduit Avenue at this time."The problem of child prostitution and the sexual exploitation of children is serious and regrettably it's growing," he said, calling it a modern day version of slavery.The DA's office will begin its work alongside the police, conducting surveillance operations and debriefing children arrested on prostitution offenses. Feinblatt, who chaired the task force that developed the program, said the cooperation of the children was critical."What we know is we can't put the pimps behind bars without the cooperation of the victims, and we can't win the cooperation of the victims unless we free them from the control of the pimps," he said.In July, counselors from SAVI are expected to be available to provide support for those child prostitutes who cooperate with prosecutors.And later this year, a residential placement facility outside the city is expected to open, with the assistance of a half-million-dollar federal grant to house the children in a "secure and supportive setting," according to the DA's office. In March a Jamaica man was sentenced to up to six years in prison for attempting to promote the prostitution of a 13-year-old, and in April, three accused sex traffickers pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn on charges they forced seven women and two girls under 18 into prostitution in Corona and Brooklyn.More recently, in May two Jamaica men and a woman were sentenced to various prison terms for charges related to prostituting a 15-year-old girl. Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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