The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is proud to partner with the FBI, which has taken the lead in tackling the escalating threat of sex trafficking against America’s children. We congratulate them on the recovery of 105 children and the arrest of 150. Operation Cross Country is saving lives – and bringing to justice those who violently manipulate these children and sell them for sex.
We must remember that these children are victims; they are too young to consent to having sex. Pimps market and sell children for sex – openly – at popular online classified sites like Backpage. They sell them at truck stops. They sell them on streets in every city in America.
Many of these children don’t have concerned family members looking for them. Of the children reported missing to us who are also likely child sex trafficking victims, 60 percent were in foster care or group homes when they ran away. With no way to survive on their own, they are lured into a life of being trafficked for sex.
During Operation Cross Country, our analysts worked with the FBI to compare information about children being trafficked with children reported missing. For example, in one of the FBI’s 105 recoveries, we had information that the 17-year-old girl had a serious medical condition. That was quickly relayed to special agents in the field who got the child the medical help she needed.
During this nationwide sweep, we also helped the FBI’s victim specialists on the scene by providing through our private donations “Hope Bags” to the victims. When victims of child sex trafficking are recovered from the control of their pimps, their only possessions are often the clothes they are wearing. The Hope Bags provide them with basic necessities such as toiletries, flip flops, snacks and a change of clothes.
To date, the Innocence Lost Initiative, of which Operation Cross Country is a part, has successfully recovered more than 2,500 children. Prosecutions resulting from the work of these 66 dedicated task forces have led to the conviction of more than 1,300 pimps, madams and their associates who exploit these children.
The leadership of the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice should be commended for attacking domestic child sex trafficking. As Operation Cross Country demonstrated in just 72 hours, there are many child victims needing to be recovered.
See more photos of our staff assembling Hope Bags.