WASHINGTON — During a two-week operation in August, the FBI located 84 victims of child sex exploitation and found 37 actively missing children during a nationwide sex trafficking initiative, the Department of Justice said Monday.
The average age of the victims was 15.5 years old and the youngest was 11 years old. In addition to locating and identifying the underage victims, the FBI found 141 trafficked adults.
“The Justice Department is committed to doing everything in our power to combat the insidious crimes of human trafficking that devastate survivors and their families,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a press release.
The nationwide operation focused on locating victims of sex trafficking and arresting those involved in both child sex and human trafficking crimes. Agents arrested or identified 85 suspects of child sex exploitation and human trafficking offenses, according to the Department of Justice.
The initiative "Operation Cross Country," worked alongside 200 state, local and federal partners as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to conduct 391 operations in August.
"Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes the FBI encounters,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in the press release. “Unfortunately, such crimes—against both adults and children—are far more common than most people realize.”
The FBI worked with victim specialists during the operation to help provide a "bridge" for those who are wary of the system, the Justice Department said. Victim specialists also help provide services based on the needs of the victims such as crisis intervention, emergency food, clothing, shelter and more.
“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 of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in the press release.