One female teenage victim and four traffickers have been captured in the St. Louis area as part of a nationwide sex trafficking sting. In the Kansas City area, two underage victims have been recovered. Nationally, 84 minors have been recovered and 120 traffickers have been arrested as part of Operation Cross Country XI that ran from October 12-15.
This is the 11th iteration of the FBI-led Operation Cross Country (OCC), which involved 55 FBI field offices and 78 state and local task forces, consisting of hundreds of law enforcement partners. This year’s coordinated operations took place with several international partners, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines.
“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm. Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested—and the number of children recovered—reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “This operation isn’t just about taking traffickers off the street. 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.”
“While Operation Cross Country is a focused and coordinated effort nationwide, our Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes local and state law enforcement partners, work tirelessly year round to rescue children from sex trafficking,” said Zachary Lowe, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI St. Louis.
As part of Operation Cross Country XI, FBI agents and task force officers staged operations in hotels, casinos, and truck stops, as well as on street corners and internet websites. The youngest victim recovered during this year’s operation was 3 months old, and the average age of victims recovered during the operation was 15 years old.
Operation Cross Country XI is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which began in 2003 and has yielded more than 6,500 child identifications and locations.