A newly concluded nationwide crackdown on child sex trafficking resulted in the rescue of a 16-year-old potential victim of the crime in San Diego, authorities announced Wednesday.
The girl involved in the San Diego case was with a man and woman believed to be grooming her for the child-sex underworld when agents intervened and took her into custody on Friday, the federal agency reported. She was one of 84 minors removed from such circumstances across the United States during the multi-agency sweep.
Including those nabbed locally, a total of 120 alleged child-sex traffickers were arrested during the effort, officials said. The suspects’ names were not immediately available.
The sweep was staged out of 55 FBI field offices, involved 78 state and local task forces and included personnel from Cambodia, Canada, the Philippines, Thailand and the United Kingdom.
“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested and the number of children recovered reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work.”
As part of the operation, FBI agents and task-force officers staged investigations in hotels, casinos and truck stops, as well as on street corners and online.
The youngest victim recovered during this year’s crackdown was 3 months old, the FBI reported. The average age of recovered youths was 15, according to the federal agency.
Victims have been offered assistance from state protective services and the FBI’s Victim Services Division. Depending on levels of need, they are eligible for medical care, mental-health counseling and other forms of aid and support.
“This operation isn’t just about taking traffickers off the street,” Wray said. “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.”
Along with the San Diego FBI office, the following agencies took part in the operation locally: the Alabaster Jar Project; Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition; California Department of Justice; California Highway Patrol; Chula Vista Police Department; Generate Hope; Homeland Security Investigations; Internal Revenue Service; Naval Criminal Investigative Service; North County Lifeline-Project LIFE; Oceanside Police Department; San Diego Child Exploitation Task Force, San Diego County Child Welfare Services; San Diego County Sheriff’s Department; San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force; San Diego Police Department; and San Diego Youth Services-STARS.
Operation Cross Country is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which has yielded more than 6,500 victim identifications and recoveries since its inception in 2003, officials said.
— City News Service
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