On Tuesday, it became known that over the weekend, the FBI and local law enforcement officers across Colorado and Wyoming completed a joint operation which saw nine children being rescued from the grips of sex trafficking. CBS Denver also reported that as part of the international sex trafficking and prostitution sting, the authorities also arrested nearly 11 pimps and 32 customers.
The FBI’s Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force is responsible for the partnership with other local law enforcement which saw the results announced. The latest sting is also said to have led to the arrest of 11 pimps and 32 customers of prostitution in the two states. The operation was carried out in coordination with the FBI’s 10th annual nationwide operation meant to target sex operators who deal in the sale of children, known as Cross Country Operation X, and involves 38 different agencies across the United States.
FBI Director James Comey outlined the role of the task force and what they hope to accomplish, saying that “Operation Cross Country aims to shine a spotlight into the darkest corners of our society that seeks to prey on the most vulnerable of our population… Through our Office of Victim Assistance, we offer a lifeline to minors to help them escape from a virtual prison no person ever deserves.”
The announcement the FBI made about the rescues and arrests came after an intensive three-day effort which spanned hotels, truck stops, and street corners, and even had aspects of social media incorporated. The youngest victim that was recovered by the authorities was 14 years old.
In one of the cases that the FBI tackled this weekend, authorities placed two pimps from Indiana under arrest after they were caught driving across the Midwest and selling sex with a child and an adult prostitute along the way. Investigators were able to act after the group’s arrival in Denver was announced by the placing of an ad for prostitution on a sex website. The Denver police made sure they answered the ad and then arrested the men for human trafficking of a minor for sexual servitude. A news conference revealed that the two females in that case had been forced to give every penny they earned with these customers to the pimps.
The Denver Post reported that in Mesa County alone, Operation Cross Country led to the arrest of six men, two of whom were registered sex offenders, and investigators filed charges for child sex assault, patronizing a child prostitute, Internet luring, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Operation Cross Country has become a semi-annual national effort to target those involved in child sex trafficking. Authorities say that this year they focused on Colorado and Wyoming for the growing problem in their area which is believed to have been a result of the increasing use of social media, including dating and hook-up apps such as Facebook, Grindr, and MeetMe, to target and exploit children. Estimates from the FBI stated that there are about 2,000 children in Wyoming and Colorado victimized every year, and Sgt. Daniel Steele, who supervises the Innocence Lost Task Force and is originally a part of the Denver Police Department, believes that any child anywhere could be affected by the sex trafficking trade.
“It can be your kid. It can be anybody’s kid… We’re in a technological age now where we have powerful computing devices that we can hold in the palm of our hand. Because of that, we have now seen traffickers, and sex buyers alike, looking at those devices and going, ‘Wow, I can sit on my couch, or I can sit in my car or I can stand on the street corner and I can pick and choose a person that I want to exploit. I can pick and choose if I want to buy someone, sell someone, exploit someone.'”
The Cross Country Operation was first launched in 2003 and has spanned 106 cities nationwide, has led to the recovery of 82 children from the sex trafficking industry, and resulted in the arrest of 239 pimps. The investigators involved have even followed leads from as far away as Canada, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
The operation also saw two suspects who had been wanted in the death of a 14-year-old girl being arrested in Georgia. They will face multiple charges, including first-degree murder, human trafficking of a child, prostitution, racketeering, and transmission of child pornography after a 14-year-old overdosed.
[Featured Image by Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock]