An FBI operation focused on combatting child sex trafficking around the world resulted in the arrests of 15 suspected pimps and associates in the Philadelphia region, authorities announced Tuesday.
Eighty-two minors were rescued and 239 alleged traffickers and their associates were arrested as part of this year’s Operation Cross Country, an annual international crimefighting effort, according to the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“Each year, Operation Cross Country shines a spotlight on the scourge of child sex trafficking,” said Michael Harpster, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, in a prepared statement. “Sadly, children are being sexually exploited in our area – and across the country – every single day. The FBI and its partners on our Child Exploitation Task Forces will never stop working to find and free them, and ensure traffickers are brought to justice.”
This year’s Operation Cross Country X — the “X” noting that it’s the 10th year of the investigation — ran from Oct. 13 to 16 and was the largest ever, with 55 FBI field offices and 74 child exploitation task forces representing more than 400 law enforcement organizations taking part in the operation, officials said.
For the first time, countries around the world participated in the investigation with several dozen operations across Canada, and about 10 operations in six cities across Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines joining national law enforcement agencies, an FBI statement on the investigation noted.
FBI officials shared this video of a Michigan woman who was rescued from human sex trafficking:
Local law enforcement agencies who participated in the operation included: the bureau’s Philadelphia Division and the Philadelphia Police Department, as well as law enforcement officials from Tinicum Township, the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division, the Pennsylvania State Police, Upper Merion Township and the Montgomery County Detectives Bureau.
According to law enforcement officials, these operations took place in a number of locations, including hotels, truck stops and street corners, and minors recovered during an arrest are now working with state protective services and victim assistance agencies.
“Child sex trafficking is a global problem and we must throw every resource we can at combating it,” said NCMEC Director John Clark, in a statement.
As part of the announcement, FBI Director James Comey asked victims of child sex trafficking, as well as those who know a victim or with have knowledge of child sex trafficking, to call 1-800-CALL-FBI or go online to tips.fbi.gov.