A huge 135-city FBI sex-trafficking investigation freed 149 children and apprehended 150 pimps, according to a statement released Wednesday.
The nationwide sweep involved over 500 members of law enforcement in cities from coast to coast. The investigation focused on hotels, casinos and truck stops.
In Michigan alone 19 children were rescued and 12 pimps arrested.
“The Michigan State Police continue to support the efforts to combat human trafficking and rescue victims from the manipulation and constraints of suspects who take advantage of vulnerable children and adults in our community. Our department is committed to working with our law enforcement partners enforcing human trafficking laws and arresting the suspects who facilitate these horrific acts,” Michigan State Police Captain Monica Yesh said in a statement.
The FBI reported that the youngest exploited child was only 12 years old.
The sting, known as “Operation Cross Country,” is in its ninth year. On Wednesday the FBI reported that this year’s operation was the the agency’s biggest effort to date and encompassed cities such as Cleveland, Denver, Atlanta, Knoxville, Alexandria, Jackson, Detroit, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Seattle and Portland.
“When kids are treated as a commodity in seedy hotels and on dark roadsides, we must rescue them from their nightmare and severely punish those responsible for that horror,” FBI Director James Comey said in a public statement.
“Human trafficking is a monstrous and devastating crime that steals lives and degrades our nation,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a separate statement. “As a result of the FBI’s outstanding coordination and exemplary efforts alongside state and local partners during Operation Cross Country, more children will sleep safely tonight, and more wrongdoers will face the judgment of our criminal justice system.”
“This operation is just a glimpse – just a snapshot into what’s occurring in this country every day,” Staca Shehan, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children executive director, said in a video posted to her organization’s Facebook page.
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