“Operation Cross Country” succeeds as the FBI rescues more than 225 sex trafficking victims, 84 of them under between 11 and 18, and 37 other missing children in 391 coordinated operations.
The effort was a collaboration between 200 state, local, and federal agencies as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Justice Department under the FBI.
“The initiative really just takes a concentrated period of time where we’re just focused on the problem of child sex trafficking,” said Section Chief Jose Perez, who oversees violent crime investigations in the FBI. “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.”
According to the Human Trafficking Institute, more than half of all trafficking victims are children. They estimate that as many as 200,000 people are trafficked in the U.S. each year, for sexual exploitation or other exploitative work. Common non-sex trafficking roles are domestic servant and field workers.
“Unfortunately, such crimes — against both adults and children — are far more common than most people realize,” said Christopher Wray, FBI Director in a Monday press release. “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 [of] our most vulnerable populations.”
85 people were identified or arrested in connection with child sexual exploitation and human trafficking in the same operation, according to officials.
“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,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said, when asked for a comment on “Operation Cross Country.”