FBI agents working alongside local authorities have been able to rescue a total of 141 adult victims of human trafficking, 84 minor victims of child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, and have identified 37 actively missing children as a direct result of a two-week long nation spanning operation in August that has been labeled "Operation Cross Country."
The overall average age of the rescued victims in similar operations is roughly 15 years old, while officials have released that the youngest victim they were able to discover throughout the operation was only 11 years old.
"Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes the FBI encounters," explained Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, in a release. "Unfortunately, such crimes—against both adults and children—are far more common than most people realize."
The federal agents were able to take 85 people suspected of child sexual exploitation and human trafficking offenses into custody as a result of Operation Cross Country, which sparked 391 separate stings over the course of two weeks. Teams included in the operation were built around using FBI special agents, intelligence analysts, victim specialists, and child adolescent forensic interviewers working alongside almost 200 state, local, and federal partners.
Victim specialists establish a bridge for survivors who have given up on the system by letting them create a positive relationship with members of law enforcement.
Specialists also assist survivors in getting available resources based on their individual needs, such as basic living needs and crisis intervention.
While partnered with the operation, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children stated the success of saving the minors who had been trafficked just reinforces what the organization sees daily.
"Children are being bought and sold for sex in communities across the country by traffickers, gangs, and even family members," expressed Michelle DeLaune, the President and CEO of the center, in a release. "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 website for the center also reports that it worked alongside law enforcement, child welfare, and families with 27,733 missing children cases.
As stated by the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, there was a total of 337,195 entries for missing children in 2021. The number of missing children entries was
365,348 in 2020.
"The initiative really just takes a concentrated period of time when we’re just focused on the problem of child sex trafficking," stated Section Chief Jose Perez, who has the responsibility to deal with violent crime investigations for the FBI, as reported by Fox News. "What we do is we sit down with our local partners and our task forces and identify certain areas where we know sex trafficking is prevalent, and we’ll dedicate resources and efforts to identify and remove victims from those areas."