CLEVELAND, Ohio — The FBI and federal, state, and local law enforcement announced this week that 149 underage trafficking victims were recovered and 153 pimps were arrested in a nationwide human trafficking operation.
It was the ninth year for “Operation Cross Country.” The initiative targets those responsible for the commercial sex trafficking of children.
Here in Cleveland, the FBI announced that four children were recovered and one pimp was arrested.
“Operation Cross Country highlights the dedicated work done year-round by our agents and numerous task force partners throughout northern Ohio,” said Stephen Anthony, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office, in a news release from the agency. “This nationally coordinated campaign helps spread awareness about the sexual trafficking of minors and sends a message to those victims that help is available and a message to the perpetrators that they will be held accountable.”
The youngest victim in this year’s operation was 12 years old. Three of the 149 victims recovered were transgender and three were male.
The FBI provides crisis intervention and basic needs for victims including medical, food, clothing, and shelter.
“Human trafficking is a monstrous and devastating crime that steals lives and degrades our nation,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Operation Cross Country is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost national initiative. Since the program began in 2003, more than 4,800 children have been recovered from underage prostitution, the FBI reported. The agency also said prosecutors have obtained more than 2,000 convictions, including at least 15 that have resulted in life sentences.