The FBI, in collaboration with state and local authorities, located 84 minor victims of child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation, 37 actively missing children and 141 adult victims of human trafficking during a two-week nationwide operation in August. The youngest victim found was just 11 years old.
According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement on Monday, the nationwide enforcement campaign, dubbed “Operation Cross Country,” was designed to identify and locate sex-trafficking victims. Authorities were also tasked with investigating and arresting “individuals and criminal enterprises involved in both child sex and human trafficking.”
The FBI posted a video on YouTube describing the operation.
“Agents and investigators also identified or arrested 85 suspects of child sexual exploitation and human trafficking offenses,” the DOJ said in a press release. “Those suspects identified will be subject to additional investigation for potential chargers.”
FBI special agents, intelligence analysts, victim specialists, and child adolescent forensic interviewers worked alongside 200 state, local and federal partners to execute nearly 400 individual operations during the two-week sex-trafficking initiative. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) also assisted in the effort.
“The success of Operation Cross County reinforces what NCMEC sees every day. Children are being bought and sold for sex in communities across the country by traffickers, gangs and even family members,” said Michelle DeLaune, President and CEO of the NCMEC.
“We’re proud to support the FBI’s efforts to prioritize the safety of children. This national operation highlights the need for all child serving professionals to continue to focus on the wellbeing of children and youth to prevent them being targeted in the first place.”
“Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes the FBI encounters,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Unfortunately, such crimes—against both adults and children—are far more common than most people realize. As we did in this operation, the FBI and our partners will continue to find and arrest traffickers, identify and help victims, and raise awareness of the exploitation our most vulnerable populations.”
Earlier this year, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) El Paso led a three-week, multi-agency operation in West Texas to recover 70 missing children, some of whom were victims of sex trafficking.