Local Children Rescued in International Sex Trafficking Operation

Law enforcement from Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia and Canada also participated in the operation

Out of dozens of children rescued in an international sex trafficking operation, three are from San Diego, the director for the local branch of the FBI announced on Monday.

It's called Operation Cross Country X.

Eighty-two children were rescued internationally in the four-day operation, along with the arrest of 239 traffickers and their associates. Three of the children are from San Diego—two of whome were 17-year old girls, according to local FBI Special Agent, Eric Birnbaum.

Law enforcement from Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia and Canada also participated in the operation. A 2-year old girl was rescued by authorites among 16 children recovered in Cambodia, Thailand, and the Phillippines.

On Monday, the FBI was joined by representatives from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and law enforcement partners from around the world to discuss the results of the operation. 

"Operation Cross Country aims to shine a spotlight into the darkest corners of our society that seeks to prey on the most vulnerable of our population," said local FBI Director James Comey.

Comey told NBC 7 that since a lot of sex trafficking activity is done on websites that host the illegal advertisements, it is difficult to find evidence of the illegal activity.

“The challenge for us is proving that the person who hosted the ad knew that they were involved in a criminal venture—that they knew the activity involved children or illegal content. And often, that’s difficult for us to prove," he said. "But where we can prove it, we’ll be aggressive in pursuing it.”

But according to Birnbaum, the operation doesn't just end with the rescue of minors from sex trafficking circles.

"The key is after," Birnbaum said. "Now, we're going to provide them with services to get back in society and out of this dark world they've been in."

Operation Cross Country X is part of the Innocence Lost Initiative, launched by the FBI in 2003.

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