National Sweep Targeted Sex Traffickers, Recovery Of Minors
by Federal Bureau of Investigation
September 5, 2022
A major law enforcement operation to locate
and assist victims of human trafficking and related crimes resulted
in the location of more than 200 victims during the first two weeks
of August 2022.
Operation Cross Country is a coordinated
operation among the FBI, other federal agencies, state and local
police, and social services agencies across the country to find and
assist victims of human trafficking, particularly child victims.
Agents plan out Operation Cross Country
2022 investigative activities in the FBI's Chattanooga office. (FBI courtesy photo)
While this public operation draws attention
to the issue of trafficking, the FBI and its partners work to
investigate and stop trafficking every day.
really just takes a concentrated period of time where we’re just
focused on the problem of child sex trafficking,” said Section Chief
Jose Perez, who oversees violent crime investigations in the FBI.
“What we do is we sit down with our local partners and our task
forces and identify certain areas where we know sex trafficking is
prevalent, and we’ll dedicate resources and efforts to identify and
remove victims from those areas.”
The FBI’s Child Exploitation and Human
Trafficking Task Forces across the country worked to locate victims.
About 200 federal, state, and local agencies partnered with the FBI
on Operation Cross Country. They encountered both child victims of
sex trafficking and adults who were being trafficked against their
will. The goal is to gather intelligence, build criminal cases
against traffickers, and offer victims assistance.
why victim specialists are embedded in operations. They serve as a
liaison between the victims and FBI agents. They also help victims
find services to rebuild their lives.
While the FBI cannot
provide these services on its own, victim specialists partner with
community organizations and social services agencies to help
victims, who are escaping a trafficker. They may need counseling,
medical services, housing, or job placement.
operation, for example, located 19 missing children and resulted in
the arrest of four traffickers.
In Chattanooga, Tennessee,
teams from 14 law enforcement agencies worked on a three-day
operation. Their work included locating sex offenders who had failed
to register, tracking predators who approach children online, and
looking for a runaway teenager at high risk for being trafficked.
FBI and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation personnel talk to the relative of a missing teenage girl as they work to find her
during Operation Cross Country 2022. (FBI
The result was three arrests: one of an unregistered sex
offender (which will become a federal case) and two state arrests.
Two federal cases were opened on suspects who may have been
involved with child sexual abuse material production or enticement
violations. Enticement involves using the internet to coerce a child
(or someone connected to the child) to manufacture sexually explicit
material of a child.
This year’s Operation Cross Country
expanded to investigate sex offenders who may be eligible for
federal charges and people trying to connect with children online to
sexually abuse them. It’s a hybrid model that has expanded the
traditional role of Operation Cross Country, said Sam, a special
agent who leads the Chattanooga office’s crimes against children
“With the advent of social media, access to
mobile devices and technology ... they’re out there in the
neighborhoods not being monitored,” Sam said. “And we don’t know if
they’re going to have access to these communication devices to
continue to exploit children online or have inappropriate physical
contact with children.”
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation personnel talk to the relative of
a missing teenage girl as they work to find her. Agents plan out
Operation Cross Country investigative activities in the FBI's
Law enforcement in the Chattanooga area
continue to look for the runaway 17-year-old, who may be at high
risk for trafficking. Investigators looked at the missing girl’s
public social media profiles and talked with relatives to develop
intelligence on where she might be.
Given the girl’s history
of trauma and family difficulty, law enforcement wants to offer her
services if she is in danger of being trafficked, said Megan, the
FBI Chattanooga victim specialist.
"We are going to follow
those leads and see if we can find her and hopefully get her to a
safe place and get her some resources ... I’m hopeful that there’s
still time for some good services for her,” Megan said.
Sgt. Steve Hope from the Red Bank Police Department was one of the
FBI partners who participated in Chattanooga’s Operation Cross
Country. He said as a small police department partnering with the
FBI is a valuable opportunity to help investigate child predators,
working with agencies that can bring additional resources to
trafficking and child predator cases.
“It’s amazing the rush
to know you can get these people before they hurt any more children.
An agency my size, we don’t have the manpower to do that, but to be
part of this task force ... the FBI has brought me in as one of
their own,” he said.
Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) |