CHICAGO (CBS) — Three child prostitutes were found and more than 135 people arrested in the Chicago area during a three-day nationwide sting aimed at curbing the exploitation of children through prostitution.

The FBI’s “Operation Cross Country” partnered with local law enforcement to find 79 children and arrest 104 pimps on prostitution charges, according to a release from the agency. About 57 cities were targeted, including Chicago and the suburbs.

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In Chicago, three children engaging in illicit sexual activities were found and 72 adults were arrested for solicitation, the release said. About 65 other adults were arrested for a variety of related state charges.

“Child prostitution remains a major threat to children across America,” Kevin Perkins of the FBI’s criminal, cyber, response and services branch said in the release. “It is a violent and deplorable crime, and we are working with our partners to disrupt and put behind bars individuals and members of criminal enterprises who would sexually exploit children.”

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Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, created in 2003 to address the growing problem of domestic child sex trafficking.

Nationally, there have been more than 2,200 children recovered from the streets; 1,017 convictions, including eight life terms; and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets, the release said.

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(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)