A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) mission to free sexually exploited minors across the U.S. and abroad resulted in the arrest of 120 sex traffickers and recovery of 84 minors.
One of the minors recovered was a 16-year-old girl from San Diego, who was rescued on October 13.
The FBI’s annual Operation Cross Country (OCC) is a four-day law enforcement operation that concluded Sunday, according to an FBI statement. This year’s OCC involved 55 FBI field offices, 78 state and local task forces, and coordination with international partners in Cambodia, Philippines, Canada, the United Kingdom and Thailand.
U.S. authorities partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in an effort to track down underage prostitution victims and spread awareness of sex trafficking.
Victims recovered were offered medical and mental counseling, as well as services to prevent future exploitation, according to the FBI.
“This operation isn't just about taking traffickers off the street,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in a statement. “It's about making sure we offer help and a way out to these young victims who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of abuse."
Law enforcement staged meet ups in hotels, casinos, truck stops, street corners and via websites in order to catch traffickers and find exploited minors, according to the FBI statement.
The San Diegan who was recovered was in the process of being groomed for sexual exploitation when agents found her, according to the FBI. She was accompanying a man as he drove a woman responding to a request for escorting services.
FBI said the minor did accept victim services when she was recovered.
Non-government Organization involved in this year's OCC included the San Diego Child Exploitation Task Force, San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force, California Department of Justice, San Diego Police Department, San Diego Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, Chula Vista Police Department, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Oceanside Police Department, San Diego FBI Victim Services, County of San Diego Child Welfare Services, Project Life, HSI Victim Assistance, Generate Hope, Alabaster Jar Project, Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, San Diego Youth Services STARS and Homeland Security Investigations.
The average age of the recovered minors in the operation was 15, according to the FBI. The youngest was 3 months old.
This was the 11th annual OCC mission, which is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, according to the FBI statement. The initiative began in 2005 and has rescued over 6,500 exploited children.