A nationwide crackdown on underage sex trafficking has resulted in 120 arrests, and the rescue of 84 underage victims, the FBI announced recently. It was called Operation Cross Country, and was conducted from Oct. 12 through Oct. 15.
"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."
FBI agents, working alongside local police, scoured the internet and set up meetings with underage prostitutes at hotels, casinos and truck stops. They would then move in, arrest the suspect and rescue the victims.
"Child sex trafficking is something that's happening in plain sight," said Staca Shehan with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "These kids are being sold online, recruited in malls, and in other locations around the country."
The Los Angeles office of the FBI announced that eight juveniles were rescued in their territory. In the Inland Empire specifically, two juveniles were rescued, three female adult victims were rescued, two pimps were arrested, 11 prostitutes were arrested and four people were arrested on suspicion of soliciting prostitution.
"This operation isn't just about taking traffickers off the street," said FBI Director Wray. "It's about making sure we offer help and a way out to these young victims who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of abuse."
The youngest victim recovered during this year's operation was 3 months old, and the average age of victims recovered during the operation was 15 years old, according to the FBI.
Minors recovered during Cross Country Operations are offered assistance from state protective services and the FBI's Victim Services Division. Depending on the level of need, victims are offered medical and mental health counseling, as well as a number of other services, officials said.