(WXIN) – The FBI, working with state and local partners for two weeks in August, says they located 37 actively missing children and located or identified 84 minor victims of child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation offenses during a nationwide initiative dubbed, “Operation Cross Country.”
“Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes the FBI encounters,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. “Unfortunately, such crimes—against both adults and children—are far more common than most people realize. As we did in this operation, the FBI and our partners will continue to find and arrest traffickers, identify and help victims, and raise awareness of the exploitation our most vulnerable populations.”
In addition to identifying and locating adolescent victims, the FBI and its partners also located 141 adult victims of human trafficking, according to a Monday news release. Investigators identified or arrested 85 suspects of child sexual exploitation or human trafficking offenses.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the average age of the victims located in similar operations is approximately 15.5 years old, while the youngest victim found as part of Operation Cross Country was 11 years old.
Hundreds of state, local, and federal partners worked in conjunction with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as part of Operation Cross Country, which conducted 391 operations over a two-week period.
As part of FBI Atlanta’s operation, nearly 20 missing kids were found, and four suspected traffickers were arrested. FBI agents from the Indianapolis Division tell Nexstar’s WXIN that their involvement resulted in nine juvenile victims being located or identified locally. Three sex offenders were also located or identified as part of local operations between FBI agents and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
“The success of Operation Cross County reinforces what NCMEC sees every day. Children are being bought and sold for sex in communities across the country by traffickers, gangs and even family members,” said Michelle DeLaune, President and CEO National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.