Last week, the FBI conducted its annual Operation Cross Country in the U.S., which resulted in the recovery of 149 exploited children and led to the arrest of dozens of pimps across the country.
According to a statement, Operation Cross Country is an FBI-led enforcement action to discuss commercial child sex trafficking throughout the United States. The aim of the initiative is to recover the victims of these heinous crimes and help them to start their lives again.
On Tuesday, the FBI announced the results of Operation Cross Country — a nationwide effort by law enforcement — which took place the first week of October 2015. It focused on underage victims of prostitution and ended with the recovery of 149 sexually exploited children and the arrests of more than 150 pimps and other people.
The report indicates the FBI, in partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, plus the help of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), conducted Operation Cross Country, the ninth and largest of its kind to date. The sex-trafficking sting was part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative.
In a statement Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey explained the motives behind Operation Cross Country and why his bureau continues to work tirelessly to rescue the children who are victims of these vicious criminals.
“Our mission is to protect the American people — especially our children — from harm. When kids are treated as a commodity in seedy hotels and on dark roadsides, we must rescue them from their nightmare and severely punish those responsible for that horror. We simply must continue to work with our partners to end the scourge of sex trafficking in our country.”
Since its inception in 2003, the Innocence Lost program has resulted in the identification and recovery of about 4,800 sexually exploited children. Additionally, prosecutors convicted 2,000 pimps and others associated with these sex trafficking crimes. At least 15 cases have resulted in life sentences.
In 2015, Operation Cross Country was coordinated by 73 of the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Forces — which included local, state, and federal agencies — investigating these crimes in 135 cities nationwide. According to the report, the youngest child recovered in the sex trafficking sting was 12-years-old.
As part of Operation Cross Country, law enforcement surveyed truck stops, hotels, casinos, and other places often visited by prostitutes, pimps, and their customers. More than 500 law enforcement officers were part of this task force, while about 100 victim specialists from the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance provided on-scene services to recovered victims, which included crisis intervention as well as food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention, the bureau said.
According to a victim specialist who participated in Operation Cross Country, their main goal is to provide support and basic services for the young victims of sex trafficking. In 2011, the FBI said that human sex trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery and deeply troubling for law enforcement.
At this time, the estimates were that sex trafficking was a million-dollar activity mostly affecting women and children who were enslaved for little or no money. Despite popular beliefs, sex trafficking happens in cities large and small all across the U.S. and at times in plain sight of law-abiding citizens.
The FBI also points out that what most people often think about when sex trafficking is mentioned are images shown in movies, which glorify the criminal activity. In the most cases, women, children, and sometimes men, are forced to become sex slaves against their will by force or threat of harm.
FBI officials announced that following Operation Cross Country, seven child victims were recovered in Atlanta, Georgia, and nine people were arrested on charges related to pimping. Operations in Denver, Colorado, yielded 20 underage recovered victims and seven pimps, who were arrested as part of the sex trafficking sting. Other cities mentioned in the FBI’s press release about Operation Cross Country include, Cleveland, Ohio (four victims recovered and one pimp arrested); Knoxville, Tennessee (two pimps arrested); Los Angeles, California (three children recovered and three pimps arrested); Oregon (three minors and a toddler recovered, six pimps arrested); Sacramento (20 minors recovered and 213 pimps arrested); and Washington State (three child victims recovered, 119 adult victims identified, and 11 arrests).
Loretta Lynch, the Attorney General of the United States, said that thanks to law enforcement and Operation Cross Country’s success, more children will sleep safely tonight and more criminals will see justice.
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