The FBI rescued 84 children from the grips of a multi-state human trafficking ring and arrested 120 traffickers Wednesday, announcing the successful sting in a statement.
Operation Cross Country XI focused the attention of law enforcement agencies on a single goal: taking out “pimps” who run human trafficking rings.
“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,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said.
“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.”
The sting is part of a 2003 venture called the Innocence Lost National Initiative, which is responsible for finding and identifying 6,500 children since its inception.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, agencies “put an additional operational focus on pimps, particularly those involved in the human trafficking of minors,” the FBI said in a statement. “Pimps who force or coerce adults to engage in prostitution are also committing acts of human trafficking.”
The agency said human traffickers undervalue the lives of their victims, some of whom are so young that their involvement in the criminal rings is cringe-worthy.
“During operations by FBI Denver’s Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force, for example, a three-month-old girl and her five-year-old sister were recovered after a friend who was staying with the family made a deal with an undercover task force officer to sell both children for sex in exchange for $600,” the statement read.
The operation encompassed multiple stings over four days through Sunday. The FBI said 55 field offices, including 78 Child Exploitation Task Forces, were involved, along with 500 other law enforcement agencies across multiple states and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.