FBI locates sex trafficking victims across the Midwest; SPD makes 2 arrests in operation

Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 3:17 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Edited News Release/KY3) - The FBI, working with its state and local partners for two weeks in August, identified and located 84 minor victims of child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation offenses and located 37 actively missing children during a nationwide enforcement campaign, dubbed “Operation Cross Country.”

The Springfield Police Department arrested two people in the operation. Police say 1 man was booked for promoting prostitution. One woman was booked for prostitution.

The FBI-led nationwide initiative focused on identifying and locating victims of sex trafficking and investigating and arresting individuals and criminal enterprises involved in both child sex trafficking and human trafficking. In addition to the identification and location of adolescent victims, the FBI and its partners located 141 adult victims of human trafficking. Agents and investigators also identified or arrested 85 suspects with child sexual exploitation and human trafficking offenses. Those suspects identified will be subject to additional investigation for potential charges. The average age of victims located during this year’s Operation Cross Country was 15.5, while the youngest victim discovered was 11 years old.

FBI agents from the Kansas City Division worked with law enforcement partners to identify suspects and victims. In Kansas City, two adolescent victims were identified and located. Throughout the areas where the operation took place, an additional 12 adult victims were contacted and offered services. This operation took place from August 4-7 and August 11-13.

“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. “I am grateful to the dedicated professionals of the FBI and our law enforcement partners across the country for their tireless work to rescue trafficking survivors, including exploited children, to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of trafficking crimes, and to provide the services and support that survivors need and deserve.”

“Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes the FBI encounters,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Unfortunately, such crimes—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 our most vulnerable populations.”

As part of Operation Cross Country XII, FBI special agents, intelligence analysts, victim specialists, and child adolescent forensic Interviewers working in conjunction with more than 200 state, local, and federal partners and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) conducted 391 operations over the two-week period.

“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 National Center for Missing & Exploited Children “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 being targeted in the first place.”

“There is no greater mission than protecting our nation’s children from harm. The FBI is committed, and will always remain committed, to ensure their safety,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Charles Dayoub. “Operation Cross Country has a dual mission: targeting traffickers who wish to harm to our children, but also to identify resources and help to offer these victims a way out from a cycle of abuse. I would like to thank our partners for their continued assistance in helping to locate and recover child victims.”

Victim specialists provide a “bridge” for victims who are wary of the system, help the victim establish positive relationships with law enforcement, and ensure the human trafficking victim population receives any appropriate resources available to them. Victim specialists also provide services based on the individual needs of human trafficking victims, including crisis intervention, emergency food and clothing, transportation to receive emergency services, and locating shelter or housing.

The task forces in the recent operation included federal, state, local and tribal partners, with efforts in every state and even a few U.S. territories. Resources:

The following agencies partnered with the FBI Kansas City during Operation Cross Country XII:

• Overland Park, Kansas, Police Department

• Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department

• Wichita, Kansas, Police Department

• Sedgwick County Kansas Sheriff’s Office

• Kansas Internet Crimes Against Children (CAC)

• Homeland Security Investigations

• Springfield, Missouri, Police Department

• Joplin, Missouri, Police Department

• Missouri State Highway Patrol

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