Nineteen children forced into prostitution were recently rescued in an FBI sting executed in Detroit, Michigan. Additionally, 12 suspected pimps have been apprehended by the authorities and await trial.
The operation was a result of Operation Cross Country, a program that is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, created in 2003 and executed by the FBI in conjunction with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), the Department of Justice, as well as state and local law enforcement officials. It was created with the intention of singularly addressing domestic sex trafficking in the United States.
Since the initiative began in 2003, more than 4,800 children have been rescued and more than 2,000 convictions have been passed. This year marks the ninth year that the program has been executed; a press release by the FBI announced Tuesday that in 2015, “149 trafficking victims were recovered and 153 pimps were arrested in a nationwide human trafficking operation conducted throughout the United States last week.” Detroit had the second highest number of children rescued this year.
Operation Cross Country IX is reported to have been the largest operation thusfar, involving 53 FBI field offices, 73 Child Exploitation Task Forces, and more than 500 state and local law enforcement officials. The sting took place in 135 cities nationwide and the youngest victim rescued this year was reported to be 12 years old.
Despite the immense success the program has experienced, David P. Gelios, special agent in charge of the FBI Detroit Division, warned that their work was far from over.
“Our office is pleased with the success of the operation in metro Detroit, but we, along with all of our law enforcement partners, do not stop here,” Gelios promised. “This is all part of an ongoing effort to continue to free victims of human trafficking, and arrest the individuals that commit these crimes.”
Michigan State Police Captain Monica Yesh supported Gelios’s testament: “The Michigan State Police continue to support the efforts to combat human trafficking and rescue victims from the manipulation and constraints of suspects who take advantage of vulnerable children and adults in our community.”