FBI: 33 missing children rescued during Human Trafficking Awareness Month

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FILE – This Thursday, June 14, 2018, file photo, shows the FBI seal at a news conference at FBI headquarters in Washington. In an alert Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, the FBI and other federal agencies warned that cybercriminals are unleashing a wave of data-scrambling extortion attempts against the U.S. healthcare system that could lock up their information systems just as nationwide cases of COVID-19 are spiking. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (WJW) — Officials in California recovered 33 missing children during Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the children were found as part of the “Operation Lost Angels” initiative that began on January 11. More than two dozen law enforcement and non-governmental agencies participated in the operation.

Authorities say that of the 33 children recovered, at least eight had been sexually exploited.

Two children were recovered multiple times during the operation. Officials say they were on the “track,” a common term used to describe a known location for commercial sex trafficking. The FBI says it is not uncommon for victims who are rescued to return to commercial sex trafficking either voluntarily or by force, fraud, or coercion.

“Several other victims located had been sexually exploited in the past and were considered vulnerable missing children prior to their recovery,” the FBI said in a news release.

One child was a victim of a noncustodial parental kidnapping.

Additionally, one suspected human trafficker was arrested on state charges as a result of the sting. Multiple investigations have since been opened.

Some of the minor victims were arrested for probation violations, robbery, or other misdemeanors.

“The FBI considers human trafficking modern day slavery and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims,” Assistant FBI Director Johnson said in a press release. “While this operation surged resources over a limited period of time with great success, the FBI and our partners investigate child sex trafficking every day of the year and around the clock.”

The FBI leads 86 child exploitation and human trafficking task forces in the U.S. and participates in anti-trafficking coordination teams in 12 offices.

Last year alone, the FBI initiated 664 human trafficking investigations nationwide, resulting in the arrests of 473 traffickers. 

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