SACRAMENTO, California (CNN) -- For more than two years, undercover cops on the Sacramento Police Department's vice squad have been working one of the most draining beats: trying to crack down on online child prostitution.
Sacramento police have nabbed nearly 70 underage girls for child prostitution since 2005.Police have nabbed nearly 70 girls under the age of 18 since 2005. Most of the girls were released to foster or group homes. Those are just the official figures; investigators think there are many more child prostitutes out there.
It is no easy task.
"We're asking these girls to do a big thing ... which is to stop what they're doing," said Sgt. Pam Seyffert of the Sacramento Police Department. "Stop what's working for them. Surviving is basically what they're doing."
Sacramento police are working with the FBI as part of a nationwide campaign to combat underage prostitution called Innocence Lost. The goal of the program, which is now in almost 30 U.S. cities, is to decriminalize the girls and concentrate on catching the pimps who control them.
"It really makes me angry," Seyffert said. "I think everybody on the team has different reactions to it, but I just flat out get really angry that some guy thinks he can take this girl and basically deprive her of her freedom."
It is not uncommon for the officers on the unit to put in 30-hour shifts. Oftentimes, their work is heart-wrenching. Video Watch how investigators work to catch pimps »
Child prostitution is even tougher on the parents of these girls. Roslyn and Sergio's daughter had been missing for more than two weeks. They waited for hours at police headquarters in hopes that their daughter would be found.
Vice squad officers found her in a downtown apartment with Bruce William Carter, a 21-year-old man who police said had posed on the Internet holding fistfuls of cash. He pleaded not guilty to charges of statutory rape and was held in lieu of $35,000 bail.
The couple's daughter, who had just turned 17, was detained but not arrested.
"It hurt," said Roslyn, who appeared weary and a bit shell-shocked. "Because you don't want to see your children involved in things like this. You don't realize how dangerous the Internet is. Now, we got to keep her away from the Internet."
Police say most of the ads appear on Craigslist, the popular and free Internet classifieds site, under a category named "Erotic Services." Even though Craigslist has posted a bold disclaimer warning against human trafficking and the exploitation of children, law enforcement officials said it doesn't seem to deter girls from posting the ads or men who are searching for sex.