The only thing new about this problem is that it’s increasing. Many of the teens leave home because of abuse, both sexual and physical. Drug and alcohol abuse plays a big role as well.
Arresting the pimps is not going to reduce the problem. Girls and boys are going to continue to run away and continue to support themselves via prostitution, with or without a pimp. Moreover, arresting pimps doesn’t even touch the problem of boy prostitution since most of them do not use pimps.
Effective early intervention in troubled homes by faith based organizations (without any government involvement) would have the greatest impact on reducing the problem. Combine this approach with an enforcement effort targeted at the “Johns” who are looking for underage girls or boys and arresting them, you might begin to reduce both the pool of available underage prostitutes and take the most depraved predators off the street.
Sadly, even if we were 100% successful in eliminating the problem of the runaways, and even if every pimp in the United States were locked up, it would have very little impact on the larger problem of child sexual abuse. Child prostitution accounts for a tiny segment of the total pool of children who are sexually abused.
We need to rethink how we spend our money and what we spend it on.