WASHINGTON (WJW) — The FBI announced on Monday it has rescued more than 100 children, as young as 11 years old, as part of a nationwide sex trafficking operation, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
During two weeks in August, state and local authorities rescued 84 minor victims of child sex trafficking and exploitation and also found 37 actively missing children as part of “Operation Cross Country.”
Agents also identified or arrested 85 suspects of child sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
“The Justice Department is committed to doing everything in our power to combat the insidious crimes of human trafficking that devastate survivors and their families,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “I am grateful to the dedicated professionals of the FBI and our law enforcement partners across the country for their tireless work to rescue trafficking survivors, including exploited children, to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of trafficking crimes, and to provide the services and support that survivors need and deserve.”
The FBI and its partners also rescued 141 adult victims of trafficking as part of the operation.
“Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes the FBI encounters,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Unfortunately, such crimes—against both adults and children—are far more common than most people realize. As we did in this operation, the FBI and our partners will continue to find and arrest traffickers, identify and help victims, and raise awareness of the exploitation our most vulnerable populations.”
The FBI along with its partners joined the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children conducting 391 operations over the two-week period.
“The success of Operation Cross County reinforces what NCMEC sees every day. Children are being bought and sold for sex in communities across the country by traffickers, gangs and even family members,” said Michelle DeLaune, President and CEO National Center for Missing & Exploited Children “We’re proud to support the FBI’s efforts to prioritize the safety of children. This national operation highlights the need for all child-serving professionals to continue to focus on the wellbeing of children and youth to prevent them from being targeted in the first place.”
The DOJ says workers are in place to provide a “bridge” for victims to ensure they receive resources available to them including crisis intervention, emergency food and clothing, transportation to receive emergency services, and locating shelter or housing.