On Wednesday, October 18, 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the results of its most recent anti-child trafficking and prostitution mission. On the one hand, we should all be grateful for the FBI’s diligence. On the other hand, it’s simply horrible that the need exists for it.
Operation Cross Country is the FBI’s annual law enforcement action focused on recovering underage victims of prostitution and drawing the public’s attention to the problem of sex trafficking at home and abroad. This year, it resulted in the recovery of 84 sexually exploited juveniles and the arrests of 120 traffickers.
“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested—and the number of children recovered—reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work.”
Operation Cross Country XI expanded internationally with Canada, the United Kingdom, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Thailand undertaking similar operations. Their efforts were coordinated with the FBI and its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners—along with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)—during the four-day law enforcement action that ended October 15.
This year’s Operation Cross Country involved 55 FBI field offices and 78 FBI-led Child Exploitation Task Forces composed of more than 500 law enforcement agencies. Hundreds of law enforcement personnel took part in sting operations in hotels, casinos, truck stops, and through social media sites frequented by pimps, prostitutes, and their customers.
All of the recovered minors were offered services by specialists who are either part of the FBI’s Victim Services Division or members of other local and state law enforcement agencies. More than 100 victim specialists provided on-scene services that included crisis intervention as well as resources for basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention.
During operations by FBI Denver’s Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force, for example, a 3-month-old girl and her five-year-old sister were recovered after a friend who was staying with the family made a deal with an undercover task force officer to sell both children for sex in exchange for $600.
“The threat of child sex trafficking is something the FBI works on every single day,” said Calvin Shivers, special agent in charge of the Denver Division. “Operation Cross Country gives us the opportunity to shine a light on this threat and to educate the public.” He added that while the focused law enforcement action has “an immediate impact” of recovering a significant number of juvenile victims, “we recognize that there is a lot more work to be done to identify and recover even more victims.”
In addition to taking traffickers off the street, FBI Director Wray said this operation is about making sure they offer help and a way out for these young victims who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of abuse.
We couldn’t agree more. Help us, help them.
To watch raw video of the operation provided by the FBI, click here.
For more information on the FBI’s human trafficking mission, click here.