SAN DIEGO – The Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), have announced that 84 minors were recovered and 120 traffickers were arrested as part of Operation Cross Country XI, a nationwide effort focusing on underage human trafficking that ran from October 12-15, according to a press release from the FBI’s San Diego Field Office.
Locally, Operation Cross Country XI recovered one minor and arrested three traffickers as part of operations based out of the San Diego field office. This is the 11th iteration of the FBI-led Operation Cross Country (OCC), which took place this year in 55 FBI field offices and involved 78 state and local task forces, consisting of hundreds of law enforcement partners, the release noted.
This year’s coordinated operations took place with several international partners, including Canada (Operation Northern Spotlight), the United Kingdom (Aident 8), Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines.
“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm. Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested — and the number of children recovered— reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in the news release. “This operation isn’t just about taking traffickers off the street. 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.”
As part of Operation Cross Country XI, FBI agents and task force officers staged operations in hotels, casinos, and truck stops, as well as on street corners and internet websites, the release said. The youngest victim recovered during this year’s operation was three months old, and the average age of victims recovered during the operation was 15 years old.
Minors recovered during Cross Country Operations are being 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 many other services, said the news release.
According to the news release, on October 13 in San Diego, a 16-year-old female was recovered when accompanying an adult male who drove an adult female responding to an online advertisement for escort services. Investigations indicated that the minor female was being groomed to be trafficked for sex. After law enforcement recovered this minor female, she was offered and accepted services from participating NGOs and victim services to educate and assist her on how to prevent further potential trafficking.
The following local law enforcement partners and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) participated in Operation Cross Country XI: San Diego FBI; San Diego Child Exploitation Task Force, San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force; California Department of Justice; San Diego Police Department; San Diego Sheriff’s Department; California Highway Patrol; Chula Vista Police Department; Homeland Security Investigations; Naval Criminal Investigative Service; Internal Revenue Service; Oceanside Police Department; San Diego FBI Victim Services; County of San Diego – Child Welfare Services; North County Lifeline- Project LIFE; Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition; HSI- Victim Assistance; Generate Hope; Alabaster Jar Project; and San Diego Youth Services- STARS.
“Child sex trafficking is happening in every community across America, and at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, we’re working to combat this problem every day,” said NCMEC President and CEO John Clark in the news release. “We’re proud to work with the FBI on Operation Cross Country to help find and recover child victims. We hope OCC generates more awareness about this crisis impacting our nation’s children.”
Operation Cross Country XI is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which began in 2003 and has yielded more than 6,500 child identifications and locations. For additional information on Operation Cross Country XI and the Innocence Lost initiative, please visit www.fbi.gov.