FBI sex trafficking sting operation rescues 149 children

The largest-ever FBI sex trafficking sting operation arrested 150 perpetrators and rescued children being exploited in 135 cities across the nation. 

FBI/AP/File
FBI authorities raid a hotel in Jackson, Miss., during a 2013 operation by FBI agents and police officers to rescue child sex trafficking victims from dingy motel rooms, truck stops, and homes.

She was just 14, and she was being sold for sex.

A nationwide sting effort found her, and on Tuesday, she reunited with her family and has started a rehabilitation program, Colorado 9 News reported. 

The victim was one of 20 children rescued in Denver by Operation Cross Country, a nationwide operation by involving more than 500 FBI agents and police officers cracking down child prostitution.

"Our mission is to protect the American people – especially our children – from harm," said FBI Director James Comey in a statement. 

The FBI's largest anti-trafficking operation ever concluded with the rescue of 149 children as young as 12 and arrests of 150 pimps and "other individuals," reported the Bureau.

Operation Cross Country stings occur annually, said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Michael Glennon, who led the sting in Detroit

"From the FBI's perspective, this is one of our highest priorities," Mr. Glennon said. "This is a cause we are dedicated to."

Operation Cross Country IX, the ninth such operation since the founding of the Innocence Lost National Initiative in 2003, rescued exploited children in 135 American cities. Over 4,800 children have been rescued through FBI operations since 2003, reports the Bureau. 

The full scope of human sex trafficking is notoriously difficult to track, but the Polaris Project, an organization that works to raise awareness of modern slavery and rehabilitate its victims, said they received 3,598 reports of sex trafficking in the US in 2014. 

About one in six of the children reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children are trapped in sexual slavery, the agency reported, up from one in seven in 2013. 

"We are proud to partner with the FBI and provide support to both law enforcement and victim specialists in the field as they work to locate and recover survivors of child sex trafficking," said Linda Krieg, NCMEC’s acting chief executive officer. "The number of children recovered and pimps arrested in this year’s operation highlights the importance of these efforts today and every day in protecting our children." 

The operation was two-pronged. First, investigators identified the criminals and organizations selling children commercially from hotels, casinos, and truck stops. The second part will be rehabilitative, providing support for the rescued children as they reintegrate into their families and communities. 

About 100 of the FBI's victim specialists helped with the rescues, providing the children with support, medical care, food, and clothing. 

"From an investigative standpoint, Operation Cross Country targets the individuals and criminal enterprises responsible for the commercial sex trafficking of children," explained a victim specialist.

"But our main goal is to provide support and services for these young victims – to help stabilize them and get them moving forward in a positive direction."

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