USA- Every once in a while, the FBI reverts back to doing what it is intended to do…investigate real crimes.
Such is the case where they announced that they had cracked a child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation ring, revealing that 84 minor child victims had been identified and located, Fox News reports.
In addition to those 84 victims, an additional 37 actively missing children were located during the nationwide enforcement effort, called “Operation Cross Country,” the Justice Department said in a news release, according to USA Today.
Moreover, the FBI and its criminal justice partners located an additional 141 adult victims of human trafficking. During the operation, 85 suspects of child sexual exploitation and human trafficking offenses were identified and/or arrested.
The Justice Department further reported that suspects may be subject to additional charges, based on where the investigations lead. They reported the average age of victims was approximately 15.5 years old, while the youngest victim found during the most recent probe was only 11 years old.
“The initiative really just takes a concentrated period of time where we’re just focused on the problem of child sex trafficking,” Section Chief Jose Perez, the man in charge of the FBI’s violent crime investigations said in a statement.
“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,” Perez added.
According to a report from the Human Trafficking Institute, over half of new human trafficking victims identified in 2021 were minors. They also note that out of all human trafficking cases filed last year, a staggering 92% were for sex trafficking.
“Unfortunately, such crime—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 of our most vulnerable populations,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Fox noted that in Atlanta alone, the operation located 19 missing children which resulted in the arrest of four traffickers. Meanwhile in Chattanooga, Tennessee teams of investigators from 14 law enforcement agencies worked on a three day operation.
That probe included locating sex offenders who had not registered as required by law, the tracking of online predators targeting children, and looking for a runaway teen at high risk of being trafficked.
That investigation led to the arrests of three individuals—one an unregistered sex offender, which will become a federal case—and two state arrests.
In addition, two more federal cases were opened on suspect believed to be involved with child sex abuse material production, or enticement violations.
The FBI further said such enticement typically involves using the internet to coerce either a child or someone connected to a child to engage in the manufacture of sexually explicit material of a child.
The FBI noted that social media has led to an increase in the ability of sex predators to exploit children online. With that in mind, the agency expanded this year’s Operation Cross Country to investigate sex offenders who may be eligible for federal charges, as well as people trying to connect with children online to sexually abuse them.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children commended law enforcement’s efforts, noting it reinforces what that agency sees on a regular basis.
“The success of Operation Cross Country 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,” Michelle DeLaune, President and CEO of NCMEC said in a statement.
“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.”
In the Chattanooga case, the FBI said local law enforcement is looking for the runaway 17-year-old, whom they believe is at high risk for trafficking. Officials have examined her social media profiles and spoken with relatives in an attempt to locate her.
They further note that the teen has a history of trauma and family difficulty, with law enforcement promising to offer her services if she is indeed in danger of being trafficked the FBI’s Chattanooga victim specialist said.
Such specialists are an important component since they provide services tailored to the specific needs of human trafficking victims, including but not limited to crisis intervention, emergency food and clothing, transportation to receive emergency services, and locating housing or shelter.
The most recent task forces included assets from federal, state, local and tribal partners, with efforts taking place in every state and a number of U.S. territories.
Meanwhile, ICYMI, investigators recovered 70 sex trafficking victims at the southern border. For more on that, we invite you to:
EL PASO, TX – Amid the horror of last week’s school shooting in west Texas, some may have missed a truly wonderful bit of news coming out of the region.
Through a massive interagency effort named “Operation Lost Souls,” U.S. agents recovered 70 missing children from human traffickers following a three-week long operation in Texas.
Some of the worst cases of human trafficking happen at the southern border. The first step in dismantling these vile crimes is border security.
Thank you to the law enforcement agencies who saved dozens of young kids.https://t.co/5ZLAZPRIvf
— Rep. Tony Gonzales (@RepTonyGonzales) June 1, 2022
The children range in age from 10 to 17 and are victims of sex trafficking and physical abuse, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Wednesday.
The majority of the children were found in west Texas, but some were found in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as well as the state of Colorado and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
The operation was led by Homeland Security Investigations El Paso and was assisted by numerous agencies, including organizations and offices that are providing victim services and counseling to the recovered children and their families.
HSI El Paso Deputy Special Agent in Charge Taekuk Cho said the department is committed to finding abducted children and prosecuting those responsible. He said in a statement:
“Operation Lost Souls exemplifies Homeland Security Investigations’ commitment to protecting the public from crimes of victimization. In this case, we are looking out for our children – our community’s most precious resource.
“HSI is committed to continue working with our law enforcement partners to locate, recover and help missing children heal, while ensuring that perpetrators are held responsible for these heinous crimes and brought to justice.”
Results of the operation were released during a news conference May 25, which coincided with National Missing Children’s Day.
Major Matthew Mull, with the Texas Department of Public Safety, said teamwork is crucial to the success of this type of operation. He noted:
“At the Department of Public Safety, teamwork is one of our core values. We are grateful for all of our law enforcement partners who participated in this operation and who work around-the-clock every day to protect our communities, including our youth.”
The multiagency operation produced additional information and leads that HSI is investigating.
The following agencies assisted in the operation: Texas Department of Public Safety; DHSI Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Attaché Office; West Texas Anti-Gang Center; Texas Highway Patrol; El Paso Police Department; U.S. Marshals Service; FBI; El Paso County Constables; Socorro (Texas) Police Department; Department of Family and Protective Services; El Paso Independent School District Police Department; Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission; and the Juvenile Probation Department.
These agencies also assisted: San Angelo (Texas) Police Department, Tom Green (Texas) County Sheriff’s Office, Odessa (Texas) Police Department, Ector (Texas) County Sheriff’s Office, Ector County Independent School District Police Department, Midland (Texas) County Sheriff’s Office, Midland County Independent School District, Midland Juvenile Probation Department, Advocacy Center for Children of El Paso, Paseo Del Norte Center of Hope, the El Paso Center for Children, Midland Rape Crisis and Children’s Advocacy Center, Harmony Home Children’s Advocacy Center, Midland Memorial Hospital SANE Nurses, and Medical Center Hospital SANE Nurses.
ICE encourages anyone with information about human trafficking victims and criminal activity to contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.
Where’s the media? U.S. Marshals task force recovers 16 missing children, makes five arrests in Operation ‘Fresh Start’
April 12, 2022
NEW ORLEANS, LA – Operation “Fresh Start,” a three-month operation conducted by the Missing Child Unit (MCU) of the U.S. Marshals Service Eastern District of Louisiana New Orleans Task Force, has resulted in the recovery or rescue of 16 children. The unit also made five arrests and uncovered a possible sex trafficking ring.
According to a press release from the U.S. Marshals Service, Operation “Fresh Start” was conducted from January 1, 2022 through March 31, 2022.
Participants included the U.S. Marshals Service New Orleans Task Force, the New Orleans Police Department, multiple Sheriff’s Offices, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Departments of Child and Family Services in Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida.
Press release author Brian W. Fair, Deputy U.S. Marshal, took note of how New Orleans has spearheaded operations such as “Fresh Start,” saying:
“New Orleans was one of the original U.S. cities to begin a USMS pilot program for the Missing Child Unit in 2016, and U.S. Marshals Service Eastern District of Louisiana Deputy U.S. Marshals have provided instruction to other USMS districts and state agencies on how to coordinate their MCU operations, which have gained national news attention within the last two years.”
The USMS also reported that, in addition to the 16 missing children who were rescued or recovered:
“six (6) children self-returned, three (3) children were recovered as other status, and three (3) more were recovered by other law enforcement agencies.”
U.S. Marshals Service Eastern District of Louisiana New Orleans Task Force, Missing Child Unit Operation “Fresh Start” was conducted from January 01, 2022, until March 31, 2022, resulting in the rescue or recovery of 16 missing/endangered children: https://t.co/3vQAwcIgv2
— U.S. Marshals (@USMarshalsHQ) April 8, 2022
Furthermore, the USMS noted that, in addition to the five arrests that were made:
“[B]ased on the operation at least four (4) felony warrant exist for adults suspected of involvement with MCU minors and the USMS New Orleans Task Force is actively pursuing these fugitives.”
In their press release, the U.S. Marshals highlighted some of the rescues and recoveries that they made during Operation “Fresh Start.”
In one case, a 14-year-old female runaway was found in Fayetteville, Georgia, after her parents reported her possible involvement with sex trafficking. The investigators discovered that she may have spent some time in the Jacksonville, Florida area before moving to Georgia. In Georgia, the teen was found to be living with several adults.
In another instance, a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old were abducted by their mother, who was their non-custodial parent, and taken to Florida. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s office issued a felony warrant for her arrest for kidnapping. Despite her multiple attempts at evasion, the non-custodial parent was tracked to Florida, where she was arrested and the two young children were recovered.
In addition, the task force recovered a 1-year-old baby who was taken by his father, after his father shot and killed the baby’s grandfather. The father surrendered to the New Orleans Police Department Violent Offenders Warrant Squad, and the baby was recovered safely.
Furthermore, a 2-year-old male child was recovered after he was abducted from his crib by a family member. The child was found after the NOPD Special Victim’s Division – Child Abuse Unit and the USMS New Orleans Taskforce conducted searches and interviews in the area. He was returned safely to his mother.
Also, a 15-year-old schizophrenic patient was recovered after she broke free from restraints in an ambulance en route to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. Thanks to a cooperative effort from the New Orleans Police Department Special Victim’s Division – Child Abuse Unit, Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Xavier University Police Department, the patient was located in New Orleans.
@USMarshalsHQ is staying busy protecting our children!!! They recovered 16 missing children from 1/1/2022 to 3/31/2022! Thank you @USMarshalsHQ for operation "Fresh Start"! Awesome work! 👏👏 https://t.co/2pcUg1U4H1
— Stacey (@Stacey12917323) April 11, 2022
Deputy U.S. Marshal Fair praised Operation “Fresh Start,” in his press release, saying:
“I am very proud of the cooperative work done by all the agencies involved in safeguarding at risk children.”
U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Louisiana Scott Illing said in a statement:
“Our Office is proud to be a part of a robust MCU program that took root in New Orleans starting in 2016.”
“This work is being done with our partners while our office still performs its critical USMS missions (judicial and witness security, managing federal prisoners, violent fugitives’ apprehension, sex offender investigations, and service of federal process).”
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