Late last month, the FBI discovered 82 minor victims of sex trafficking and arrested 239 sex traffickers. The nationwide three-day operation, known as Operation Cross Country X, was executed in conjunction with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and local and international law enforcement agencies.
Sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals are forced to engage in commercial sex acts.
“Operation Cross Country aims to shine a spotlight in the darkest corners of our society that seeks to prey on the most vulnerable of our population,” said FBI Director James Comey.
“Child sex trafficking is a heinous crime that affects people of all races and ethnicities,” said Carlton Peeples, assistant special agent in charge of the Jacksonville, Mississippi branch of the FBI’s criminal division. “It takes place in communities of all sizes. Traffickers operate anywhere they can make a profit exploiting children. Victims endure physical neglect, sexual assault, suffer from malnutrition, unaddressed medical problems and mental health issues.”
Because of the numerous health issues experienced by victims of human trafficking, Operation Cross Country also aims to help victims find resources to begin recovery. “As part of this effort, we are not only looking to root out those who engage in the trafficking of minors, but through our Office for Victim Assistance, we offer a lifeline to minors to help them escape from a virtual prison no person ever deserves,” said Comey. More than 100 victim specialists provided on-site crisis intervention services and provided resources for basic needs like food, clothing, shelter and medical help.
Operation Cross Country was created in 2003 as part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative. Since its inception, the program has resulted in the recovery of over 6,000 children from the sex trafficking industry,