In a sickening example of just how pervasive human trafficking is in the United States, the FBI led a crackdown over the weekend that resulted in the rescue of 84 minors and the arrest of 120 suspected traffickers. Local, state, and federal officials combined forces for the nationwide Operation Cross Country XI, which has the singular goal of apprehending the “pimps” who run human trafficking rings throughout the U.S.
“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested — and the number of children recovered — reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work.”
As NBC News reported, the sting, which ran from October 12 through October 15, was the latest part of a 2003 initiative FBI called the Innocence Lost National Initiative. The venture has been responsible for finding and identifying some 6,500 children since its inception.
The FBI released a video on Wednesday showing raw footage from Operation Cross Country actions in Denver, Colorado and Toledo, Ohio. It is clear from the emotional video that authorities are as interested in tending to the wellbeing of the victims as they are capturing the suspects. The agency reported that “more than 100 victim specialists provided on-scene services that included crisis intervention as well as resources for basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention.”
Watch the FBI video below:
“This operation isn’t just about taking traffickers off the street,” Wray said. “It’s about making sure we offer help and a way out to these young victims who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of abuse.”
In Michigan, Click On Detroit reported that investigators rescued 12 children from a juvenile sex trafficking ring and arrested eight traffickers. As part of the national effort, FBI agents staged operations in hotels, casinos, truck stops, street corners, and online. Of the 84 minors recovered, the average age was 15 years old, but officials disturbingly found a 3-month-old in Colorado. Along with her five-year-old sister, the infant was recovered after someone staying in their home made a deal with an undercover task force officer to sell both children for sex in exchange for $600.
Ultimately, the FBI said 55 field offices, including 78 Child Exploitation Task Forces, teamed with 500 other law enforcement agencies across multiple states and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) for the operation. It is the hope of all those involved that such ventures shed a new light on the dangers and prevalence of human trafficking across the U.S.
“Child sex trafficking is happening in every community across America, and at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, we’re working to combat this problem every day,” said NCMEC president and CEO John Clark. “We’re proud to work with the FBI on Operation Cross Country to help find and recover child victims. We hope OCC generates more awareness about this crisis impacting our nation’s children.”
(H/T: Click On Detroit)