A nationwide sex trafficking sting has helped rescue 149 children, authorities have reported on Tuesday. The undertaking, which commenced last Monday, was led by 73 of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation Task Forces.
Dubbed “Operation Cross Country IX”, the enforcement action was the ninth and largest initiative of this kind carried out by authorities, with a view to identify underage victims of prostitution, and return back to the safety of their former homes.
Throughout a period of one week, 153 arrests have been made on pimping and pandering charges, and 152 children have been saved, after having been sexually exploited.
The initiative involved over 500 law enforcement officers, and spread across 135 U.S. cities. Federal, state and local officials carried out busts at hotels, truck stops, casinos and other locations which are favored by prostitution rings.
According to authorities, the youngest victim that task forces managed to save was 12 years old. The highest number of underage sex trafficking victims was identified in Denver and Detroit: 20 and 19, respectively. 9 other children were rescued from prostitution in Las Vegas, and 8 victims from Milwaukee were also salvaged by law enforcement.
Following the operation, the recovered children have been receiving medical care, counselling and support from the 100 victim specialists that work for FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance.
As U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said, human trafficking is a heinous, sadistic crime, which deals with children as if they were commodities. This monstrous misdeed steals innocent lives and disrupts communities, as kids are kidnapped cold-bloodedly, never to be reunited with their families again.
Therefore, FBI’s involvement in this sting is commendable, especially given how well the agents collaborated with local and state authorities. In fact, this initiative represents just one example in a series of painstaking efforts that have been taken in order to identify such felonies and punish the perpetrators.
Thanks to Operation Cross Country IX, “more children will sleep safely tonight, and more wrongdoers will face the judgement of our criminal justice system”, added the U.S. Attorney General.
Sex trafficking is a frightfully lucrative business, since one child can generate up to $100,000 for the pimps. In order to force kids to continue working for them, traffickers often resort to coercion, verbal threats and savage beatings.
Operation Cross Country began precisely so that victims of human trafficking can be rescued, and reunited with their families, before it is too late.
The project is part of FBI’s Innocence Lost Initiative, which began in June 2003, in collaboration with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and the Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.
Up until now, task forces involved in this mission have helped save more than 4,800 children who had been victims of the domestic sex trade.
Moreover, following these crackdown operations, over 2,000 pimps, madams and other accomplices have been convicted. Suitably harsh verdicts have been pronounced against the culprits, including more than 15 life imprisonment sentences.
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