A nationwide sweep spearheaded by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, state and federal law enforcement and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children resulted in the recoveries of 168 children who were being victimized through prostitution, according to a release from the FBI.
The week-long enforcement action, dubbed “Operation Cross Country VIII” also resulted in the arrest of 281 individuals for pimping and other state and federal charges. A total of 392 agencies participated in the enforcement actions.
“Targeting and harming America’s children through commercial sex trafficking is a heinous crime, with serious consequences,” FBI Director James B. Comey said in a news release. “Every child deserves to be safe and sound. Through targeted measures like Operation Cross Country, we can end the cycle of victimization.”
Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative that was established in 2003 by the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Department of Justice and NCMEC, to address the growing problem of child prostitution.
To date, the FBI and its task force partners have recovered nearly 3,600 children from the streets, according to the Bureau. The investigations and subsequent 1,450 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including 14 life terms and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets.
The release states that task force operations usually begin as local enforcement actions that target truck stops, casinos, street “tracks,” and websites that advertise dating or escort services.
Kylla Leeburg, deputy director of Truckers Against Trafficking, a nonprofit organization that educates trucking and travel plaza industry members on domestic sex trafficking, said truckers and others who work in the transportation industry can play an important role in combating sex trafficking.
“We want truckers to understand that when they’re calling the human trafficking resource center, the information they’re providing is extremely valuable, and they are a part of this process recovering these kids and arresting these perpetrators,” she said.
Leeburg said members of the industry who suspect human trafficking is taking place are urged to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 and report what they know.
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