ATLANTA — A nationwide effort targeting underage human trafficking has led to a total of 60 arrests in Georgia – two in Savannah and 58 in Atlanta. Called Operation Cross Country XI, the Oct. 12-15 sting led to 84 recovered minors and 120 arrested traffickers across the United States.
“This operation isn’t just about taking traffickers off the street,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “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.”
According to the FBI, the efforts in Georgia led to four recovered juveniles, four arrested pimp/traffickers and three arrested travelers who intended to engage in sex with a purported minor.
The average age of the recovered minors was 15. The youngest was 3 months old.
“The many men and women of law enforcement working on this operation are keenly aware of the importance of recovering these vulnerable young victims,” said David J. LeValley, special agent in charge of the Atlanta FBI Field Office. “I commend every one of them for their hard work and dedication in the recovery and the apprehension of those responsible for their exploitation.
“I would also like to thank all of the law enforcement agencies who participated and the various non-government agencies who provided specialized relief and services to the victims of this traumatic brand of human trafficking. Operation Cross Country is a perfect example of our commitment each and every day to the fight against child sex trafficking.”
FBI agents and task force officers staged operations in hotels, casinos and truck stops, as well as on street corners and on the internet.
“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm,” Wray said. “Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested — and the number of children recovered — reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work.”
All minors recovered during Cross Country operations are offered assistance from state protective services and the FBI’s Victim Services Division. Depending on the level of need, victims are also offered medical help, mental health counseling and other services.
“Child sex trafficking is happening in every community across America,” said John Clark, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “We hope OCC generates more awareness about this crisis impacting our nation’s children.”
This is the 11th iteration of the operation, which netted 239 suspects last October – including five in Alpharetta.
Twenty four Georgia agencies assisted in the efforts this year, including Atlanta FBI’s Metro Atlanta Child Exploitation Task Force, Alpharetta police, Johns Creek police, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, iCare and Savepath Children’s Advocacy.
Operation Cross Country XI is the latest chapter of the FBI’s broader Innocence Lost Initiative. Since its inception in 2003, the initiative has rescued over 6,500 children.