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Over 250 People Rescued From Sex Trafficking By FBI

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

FBI agents and local authorities rescued over 200 trafficking victims during a two-week nationwide operation in August dubbed Operation Cross Country. This operation is an annual campaign focused on identifying and locating victims of trafficking with coordinated efforts from the FBI and other related state and local agencies.

The victims rescued this august included 141 adult victims of human trafficking and 84 minor victims of child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. The authorities have also identified 37 children who were actively missing during the campaign.

The operation has also helped to locate more than 200 victims of human trafficking and related crimes during the first two weeks of this month. This brings the total number of victims rescued this year as part of the operation to 391.

The average age of victims recorded in similar operations is approximately 15 years old, and the youngest victim discovered during this operation was only 11.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement, “Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes the FBI encounters. Unfortunately, such crimes—against both adults and children—are far more common than most people realize.”

Officials arrested 85 suspects of child sexual exploitation and human trafficking offenses as part of Operation Cross Country. The teams for Operation Cross Country included FBI special agents, intelligence analysts, victim specialists, and child adolescent forensic interviewers.

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The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which also partnered with the operation, said the success of rescuing the trafficked minors shows what the organization sees every day.

Michelle DeLaune, President and CEO of the center, said, “Children are being bought and sold for sex in communities across the country by traffickers, gangs, and even family members. 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 from being targeted in the first place.”

So far, the center’s website reports it has assisted law enforcement, families, and child welfare with 27,733 missing children cases. According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, more than half of the trafficking victims are minors, as there were 337,195 entries for missing children in 2021. The number of missing child entries was 365,348 in 2020.

Section Chief Jose Perez, who oversees violent crime investigations in the FBI, said, “The initiative really just takes a concentrated period of time when we’re just focused on the problem of child sex trafficking. What we do is we sit down with our local partners and our task forces and identify certain areas where we know sex trafficking is prevalent, and we’ll dedicate resources and efforts to identify and remove victims from those areas.”

Nearly 200 agencies have partnered to help on the Operation Cross Country initiative, which aims to gather intelligence, build criminal cases against traffickers and offer assistance to victims.