A widespread human trafficking investigation “Operation Cross Country” has resulted in the rescue of hundreds of adult and minor victims of human trafficking and child exploitation across the U.S. Since the start of the nationwide enforcement campaign in early August, authorities located 37 “actively missing children” and 141 adult victim of human trafficking, a recent report reveals.
According to a statement made public by the Department of Justice during this week, the FBI and its state and local partners also identified and released 84 minors as a result of the campaign. The investigation team of Operation Cross Country XII includes FBI special agents, intelligence analysts, victim specialists, child adolescent forensic interviewers, experts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and over 200 workers of state and local partners.
During a two-week period, the group conducted over 390 operations, the report shows. “Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes the FBI encounters,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in the statement. “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.”
The statement revealed that the youngest victim of child exploitation identified during “Operation Cross Country” is 11 years old, which is younger than the average of 15.5 years old discovered in other similar operations, reported the press release on Justice.gov.
“The success of Operation Cross County reinforces what NCMEC sees every day. Children are being bought and sold for s-x in communities across the country by traffickers, gangs and even family members,” said Michelle DeLaune, President and CEO National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “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.”
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In addition to the rescue and identification of minor victims, agents and investigators located 141 adult victims of human trafficking. “The Justice Department is committed to doing everything in our power to combat the insidious crimes of human trafficking that devastate survivors and their families,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in the statement. “I am grateful to the dedicated professionals of the FBI and our law enforcement partners across the country for their tireless work to rescue trafficking survivors, including exploited children, to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of trafficking crimes, and to provide the services and support that survivors need and deserve.”
In addition, the group was able to identify 85 suspects of human trafficking offenses. The suspects were arrested by law enforcement over allegations of child exploitation and human trafficking and will be subject to further investigation for potential chargers. This successful campaign focused on locating victims of child abuse as well as bringing criminal enterprises involved in human trafficking to justice.