During the past week, the FBI; its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners; and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children conducted Operation Cross Country VIII, a weeklong enforcement action to address commercial child sex trafficking throughout the United States.
This operation included enforcement actions in 106 cities across 54 FBI field divisions nationwide and resulted in 168 recoveries of children who were being victimized through prostitution. Additionally, 281 pimps were arrested on state and federal charges.
In the St. Louis division, no juveniles were recovered and one pimp was arrested.
“Targeting and harming America’s children through commercial sex trafficking is a heinous crime, with serious consequences,” FBI Director James B. Comey said. “Every child deserves to be safe and sound. Through targeted measures like Operation Cross Country, we can end the cycle of victimization.”
Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative that was established in 2003 by the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Department of Justice and NCMEC, to address the growing problem of child prostitution.
To date, the FBI and its task force partners have recovered nearly 3,600 children from the streets. The investigations and subsequent 1,450 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including 14 life terms and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets.
Task force operations usually begin as local enforcement actions that target truck stops, casinos, street “tracks,” and websites that advertise dating or escort services, based on intelligence gathered by officers working in their respective jurisdictions. Initial arrests are often violations of local and state laws relating to prostitution or solicitation. Information gleaned from those arrested frequently uncovers organized efforts to prostitute women and children across many states. FBI agents further develop this evidence in partnership with U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section so prosecutors can help bring federal charges in those cities where child prostitution occurs.
The Innocence Lost National Initiative partners with NCMEC to provide training for state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and social service providers from across the country.
The FBI thanks its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners representing 392 separate agencies for their ongoing enforcement efforts and participation in Operation Cross Country VIII.