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Twitter Chat Focuses on Child Sex Trafficking

In the FBI’s first Twitter chat, the head of the Violent Crimes Against Children section yesterday answered questions from users of the social media platform about the Bureau’s efforts to fight human trafficking and help victims. Special Agent Michael Harpster talked about how the FBI partners with state and local authorities in law enforcement efforts like last week’s Operation Cross Country VIII, which resulted in the recovery of 168 victims of trafficking and the arrests 281 pimps.

Jun 26, 2014 03:00 PM

Twitter Chat Focuses on Child Sex Trafficking


In the FBI’s first Twitter chat, the head of the Violent Crimes Against Children Section yesterday answered questions from users of the social media platform about the Bureau’s efforts to fight human trafficking and help victims.

Special Agent Michael Harpster talked about how the FBI partners with state and local authorities in law enforcement efforts like last week’s Operation Cross Country VIII, which resulted in the recovery of 168 victims of trafficking and the arrests 281 pimps.

The hour-long question-and-answer session generated dozens of questions that users sent to the Twitter hashtag #OCC8 that we established for the event. A transcript of the conversation can be seen below. The questioners’ identities and some Twitter-specific symbols have been removed, but the full conversation can be viewed on the FBI’s Twitter page or by using the hashtag #OCC8

Transcript:

Welcome to our FBI chat. I’m Michael Harpster, Violent Crimes Against Children section. I look forward to your questions at #OCC8.

First, I’d like to thank our state and local partners. Together, we had a great accomplishment with [Operation Cross Country VIII].

Q: What steps are you taking to address the demand? Any links you can provide?

Harpster: Through our 69 child exploitation task forces we address all aspects of exploitation to include demand.

Q. What’s #OCC8?

Harpster: #OCC8 was an FBI-led nationwide law enforcement operation targeting child sex trafficking. Related Link

Harpster: #OCC8 isn’t a one-time deal. Our Innocence Lost National Initiative combats domestic child sex trafficking daily.

Q. Thanks for taking questions. Do you know the origins of the victims? Were they trafficked into the US? Inter-State smuggling?

Harpster: Victims come from all demographics, from small communities to large cities. Many are trafficked across state lines.

Q. What do you think the most important step is to ending child exploitation? 

Harpster: Community involvement, awareness, education, and reporting are critical to stopping exploitation. Call FBI or 1-800-THE-LOST

Q. Thank you for doing the right thing. How is our government helping these victims. How can we help them too?

Harpster: Victim specialists provide crisis intervention, an array of services, and follow-up care.  Related Link

Q. Were many of these pimps armed and/or dangerous? Were any of them aware of the child rescue operation? 

Harpster: Yes, many pimps have violent criminal histories. To our knowledge, they were not aware of the ongoing operation. 

Q. Can you elaborate on what sort of collaboration with nonprofits, if any, you find most helpful to your work? 

Harpster: We have strong partnerships with @MissingKids, @restoreblackbow, and many other agencies and NGOs. 

Q. Are you including state and local law enforcement? If so what steps are they taking too end the problem?

Harpster: For this operation we had almost 400 agencies participate. We partner with nearly 600 task force officers daily.

Q. Hope they answer why they put minors swept up in these raids in handcuffs.

Harpster: At recovery, a child may not be fully identified or may have a warrant. Also, for their safety during the initial response. 

Harpster: If you have been exploited or have info regarding exploited children, contact your local FBI or @MissingKids.

Harpster: The primary focus of #OCC8 was the safe recovery of child victims, providing services, and raising awareness of child sexual exploitation.

Harpster: We’d like to thank our digital billboard partners for helping the #FBI get the message out that “America’s children are not for sale.” 

Harpster: Thanks for joining me and being part of the conversation. I wish I had time to answer more questions. For more info visit @FBI