In what can be called a heroic attempt by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the law enforcement agency recently recovered 82 sexually exploited juveniles including the arrests of as many as 239 pimps and sexual offenders.
FBI’s Operation Cross Country is an annual law enforcement program that focuses primarily on recovering underage victims of prostitution.
The 3-day operation has eventually grown to become an enforcement action on the international level, with countries such as Canada, Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia joining the league.
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) works conjointly with the team.
“Operation Cross Country aims to shine a spotlight into the darkest corners of our society that seeks to prey on the most vulnerable of our population,” said FBI Director Comey following the announcement of the results of the operation.
“We are not only looking to root out those who engage in the trafficking of minors, but through our Office for Victim Assistance, we offer a lifeline to minors to help them escape from a virtual prison no person ever deserves.”
Operation Cross Country is a crucial part of FBI’s 2003-born Innocence Lost National Initiative. The program has, since its birth, recovered more than 6000 underage children from child sex-trafficking rackets.
The latest and the 10th iteration of the program involved 55 FBI field offices and 74 FBI-led Child Exploitation Task Forces. Hundreds of law enforcement officials raided hotels, casinos, truck halts, and other crannies that are known to be frequented by pimps, prostitutes, and their customers.
The youngest recovered victim in the U.S. was 13 years old.
Authorities have apprehended an American citizen in Thailand on grounds of coercing five Filipino teenagers, aged between 14 and 16, to send him sexually explicit photos of the girls. It has been reported that the perpetrator is a registered sex offender.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, authorities apprehended five adults on charges of child sexual abuse and “access to the children for the purposes of illegal sexual acts” and have recovered two boys, 11 and 5, including a 2-year-old girl.
NCMEC’s director, John Clark, said in a statement that the exploitation of children is as serious a problem overseas as it is in the U.S.
“This is something that’s happening in communities all across the country,” said the Director.
“We need moms and dads and teachers and neighbors and everybody working hand in hand to try to identify where this situation is happening so that we can bring the right resources to bear to fight child sex trafficking.”