Trafficking Bust Leads to Recovery of 50+ Children

( – A nationwide sting dubbed “Operation Cross Country” has netted the FBI more than 200 trafficked or missing persons and more than 100 suspects. Officials said on August 1st that over 100 children were among the victims.

The operation took place over a period of two weeks and was done in collaboration with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A number of state and local agencies were also involved.

59 missing children were located along with an equal number of child trafficking victims.

The FBI said they identified or arrested at least 126 suspects that facilitated child exploitation, along with 68 alleged human traffickers. Officials said that the youngest victim recovered was 11 years old and that the average age of the rescued minors was 15.

According to the Bureau, the operation was tasked with “identifying and locating” trafficking victims and carrying out the investigations and arrests of individuals involved in “criminal enterprises” related to trafficking.

NCMEC president and CEO Michelle DeLaune said the operation’s success “reinforces” what the organization is exposed to on a daily basis. She said that minors “are being bought and sold” in cities throughout the country. The nonprofit’s CEO said the purchases are facilitated by organized traffickers, gang members, and “even family members.”

Data released by the organization shows they received over 17,000 child trafficking reports in 2021. They are reported to have assisted authorities in the recovery of over 400,000 missing children since their founding in 1984.

“Cross Country” has taken place annually for 13 years and is a 14-day effort that is coordinated throughout all 50 states. It grew from an FBI initiative in 2003 that had the goal of identifying and locating exploited children. The large sweeps involving many suspects and victims are conducted with the intent of bringing media attention to the matter.

A report from 2021 showed that minors accounted for over 50% of all trafficking victims.

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