Wednesday, 2 August 2023

More than 200 sex trafficking victims, 59 missing children located in nationwide sting: FBI

 A two-week nationwide law enforcement operation led to the recovery of more than 200 sex trafficking victims and 59 reported missing children, the FBI reported Tuesday.

The agency stated that the sting, conducted in July, resulted in the arrest of more than 60 suspected human traffickers and another 126 individuals allegedly involved in child sexual exploitation and other trafficking offenses.

According to the bureau, "Operation Cross County" is a yearly two-week initiative that prioritizes rescuing child trafficking victims. The operation involved a coordinated effort between FBI field offices nationwide and local law enforcement and social services agencies.

"Operation Cross Country grew out of a 2003 FBI initiative to identify and recover minors who have been sexually exploited. While the national sweeps draw attention to the issue of trafficking, the FBI and its partners work to investigate and stop trafficking every day," the bureau stated.

During this year's sting, the law enforcement agency, in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, located more than 200 victims, an additional 59 child sex trafficking victims, and 59 children who were reported missing. 

According to the FBI, the NCMEC has assisted in more than 400,000 missing children cases.

"Through targeted operations and collaborative efforts, Operation Cross Country achieved significant milestones in recovering victims, apprehending offenders, and raising public awareness about these heinous crimes," the agency noted. 

Assistant director of the Victim Services Division Regina Thompson called human trafficking "a very complex, traumatic crime" and stressed the importance of facilitating a "trauma-informed, victim-centered approach" when interacting with victims.

When announcing the operation's results on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray stated, "Human trafficking is a grave violation of human rights that preys on the most vulnerable members of our society."

"The FBI's actions against this threat never waver as we continue to send our message that these atrocities will not be tolerated," Wray added.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, "Sex traffickers exploit and endanger some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cause their victims unimaginable harm."

"This operation, which located 59 actively missing children, builds on the tremendous work the FBI has undertaken over many years to rescue minor victims and arrest those responsible for these unspeakable crimes," he continued. "We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners across the country to prevent human trafficking; increase detection, investigation, and prosecution of human trafficking crimes; and expand support and services to protect and empower survivors."

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