150 pimps arrested in trafficking sting. “Operation Cross Country” was a nationwide sweep which led to the arrest of several child traffickers in the US. Some children exploited were reportedly as young as 12-years-old.
The operation was a joint effort of the FBI and local authorities, police enforcement, in collaboration with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The operation was conducted in 135 cities across the country.
The Jacksonville Sherriff’s office reported that FBI officials arrested 25 suspects in that city alone. The vast majority of the children rescued were girls, although the FBI also claims three boys were recovered and another three were transgendered.
Kristin Keen, the leader of a group aimed at combating child trafficking, has expressed hope that this operation will raise further awareness about the problem of sex slavery in the United States.
“This is an amazing step forward for our country. I think it’ll raise awareness. I’m super proud of our law enforcement and the steps they’re taking to combat this. I know the next step is to take care of all these survivors, make sure they have everything they need,” said Keen.
Over 500 law enforcement officers took part in the sting which was carried out in hotels, casinos, truck stops and other areas frequented by pimps, sex workers and their customers.
Dr. Pam Mullarkey Robbins said that most of the children who end up in trafficking have very little interaction with their parents. According to Dr. Robbins, most of them are runaways, abandoned children or orphans who grew up in harsh environments.
She further stated that this makes them easy targets for sex traffickers, who take advantage of their unfortunate circumstances by promising them a better of life in order to entrap them. Sometimes they will buy them gifts and offer them generous presents as a sign of good will, only to lure them in and gain their trust.
Dr. Robbins believes that most pimps and recruiters are good manipulators, praying on the innocence and desperation of these children. Many have expressed hope however that recent operations, such as this one carried out by the FBI and local law enforcement, is just the beginning of more to come in the battle against child trafficking.
The Innocence Lost Program was created in 2003 as a joint effort between the FBI, Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing Children. So far it has led to the identification and recovery of approximately 4,800 exploited children.
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