Operation Cross Country, a federal effort to recover young victims of sex trafficking, yielded the rescue of dozens of children by the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force in Oregon in the past week. The FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) have used the operation to save minors and go after the people behind sex trafficking enterprises. In just four days, they have rescued 84 children and arrested 120 traffickers due to the efforts of 55 different FBI field offices, local and state law enforcement agencies, as well as international partners in Canada, the United Kingdom, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines.
The yearly operation, the 11th of its kind, concluded on October 15, and the FBI announced the results this week. Agents conducted various operations online, in hotels, casinos, and truck stops, and on street corners. Operation Cross Country is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which began in 2003. Since then, they have rescued more than 6,500 children. Dozens of criminals are now serving life sentences.
“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm. Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested—and the number of children recovered—reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
The average age of those rescued is about 15 years old, but one incident involved extremely young children. In Colorado, agents conducted a sting operation that yielded the recovery of a 5-year-old girl and her 3-month-old sister, who were both offered for sex by a family friend who had been staying with them. That friend was arrested after reaching a deal to sell the girls for sex for $600, not knowing that the “buyer” was an undercover officer.
“It can be easy to think that selling sex with children is so corrupt, so depraved that it couldn’t possibly happen in my town,” said Loren Cannon, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon. “But, as we find out every time we recover a child, these victims are here and their needs are very real.”
[Image via FBI video screengrab]