Dozens of missing children were rescued in Southern California during a recent human trafficking probe, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
“Of the 33 children rescued as part of ‘Operation Lost Angels,’ eight were being sexually exploited when authorities swooped in to save them,” the New York Post reported Saturday.
The FBI detailed the investigation in a press release on Friday:
Two were recovered multiple times during the operation while on the “track,” a common term used to describe a known location for commercial sex trafficking. It is not uncommon for victims who are rescued to return to commercial sex trafficking either voluntarily or by force, fraud, or coercion. This harmful cycle highlights the challenges victims face and those faced by law enforcement when attempting to keep victims from returning to an abusive situation. Victims may not self-identify as being trafficked or may not even realize they’re being trafficked.
Several other victims located had been sexually exploited in the past and were considered vulnerable missing children prior to their recovery. Additionally, the operation resulted in the arrest on state charges of one suspected human trafficker and the opening of multiple investigations. Some of the minor victims were arrested for probation violations, robbery, or other misdemeanors. One child was a victim of a noncustodial parental kidnapping.
The agency defines human trafficking as the “illegal exploitation of a person,” adding that anyone can be a victim of the crime and it can occur in any community including cities, suburbs, and rural areas.
“Here in the United States, both U.S. residents and foreign nationals are being bought and sold like modern-day slaves,” its website read.
In November, the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) in Florida announced it concluded a massive human trafficking investigation that resulted in more than 170 arrests.
“The base of human trafficking are the buyers, those charged with misdemeanors for solicitation of prostitution. Without buyers, human trafficking would not exist in such large numbers,” officials stated in a press release.
The FBI said multiple teams were assembled for the recent operation which included nongovernmental victim advocacy groups.
“Human trafficking is a pervasive and insidious crime that threatens the safety of our young people, who are the future of our communities,” noted Michel Moore, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.
“We can only begin to take back the future of our youth with the strong partnerships forged between outstanding service providers and law enforcement,” Moore concluded.