FBI finds 121 missing children and victims of sex trafficking in nationwide operation
The agency said it was able to locate more than 200 victims of human trafficking during the first two weeks of August through an operation dubbed “Operation Cross Country"
August 16, 2022 5:13am
Updated: August 16, 2022 11:50am
The FBI announced on Monday that it had found 121 missing children and victims of sex trafficking in a nationwide sting operation.
In a news release, the agency said it was able to locate more than 200 victims of human trafficking during the first two weeks of August through an operation dubbed “Operation Cross Country.”
The operation is a coordinated effort between the FBI, other federal agencies, state and local police, and social services agencies across the nation.
The goal of the operation is to find children and adults who are being trafficked against their will, in addition to gathering information and building criminal cases against their traffickers.
Through the operations, the agency and its partners located 37 missing children and 84 minors who were being exploited as sex workers. Additionally, the FBI was able to locate 141 adults, bringing the total number of victims the agency has found this year to 391.
So far, the FBI has identified or arrested 85 suspects of child sexual exploitation or human trafficking, reported Axios.
The FBI’s operation in Atlanta, for example, located 19 missing children and resulted in the arrest of four traffickers. Similarly, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, three local sex offenders were arrested after a three-day operation involving 14 law enforcement agencies.
“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,” he added.
The Department of Justice announced that victim specialists will be made available to help the victims found through the operation, in addition to providing them with emergency food, clothing, and shelter.
"Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes the FBI encounters," FBI director Christopher Wray said in a statement. "Unfortunately, such crimes — against both adults and children — are far more common than most people realize."
Operation Cross Country is a coordinated operation among the #FBI, other federal agencies, state and local police, and social services agencies across the country to find and assist victims of human trafficking, particularly child victims. Learn more at https://t.co/NKzg6tnsv9. pic.twitter.com/gxqBRdn6kB— FBI (@FBI) August 15, 2022