St. Louis FBI agents said they rescued a teenage girl and arrested four human-trafficking suspects during the agency’s nationwide three-day focus on underage human trafficking earlier this month.
Agents conducted the investigation, called Operation Cross Country XI, from Oct. 12 to Oct. 15. This is the 11th completed operation aimed at human trafficking, according to a news release by the FBI.
Additional information about the 17-year-old girl who was rescued and the suspects arrested in the St. Louis area was not immediately available.
Nationally, agents rescued 84 children and arrested 120 people for human trafficking during the three-day operation. Fifty-five field offices and 78 state and local task forces participated, FBI officials wrote.
“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,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in the news release. “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.”
The FBI coordinated with several countries including Canada, the United Kingdom, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines.
“Child sex-trafficking is happening in every community across America, and at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, we’re working to combat this problem every day,” NCMEC President and CEO John Clark said in the news release. “We’re proud to work with the FBI on Operation Cross Country to help find and recover child victims. We hope OCC generates more awareness about this crisis impacting our nation’s children.”
The operations is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which started in 2003. Through the program agents have located and identified 6,500 children involved in trafficking.
For more information on Operation Cross Country XI and the Innocence Lost initiative visit www.fbi.gov.