Innocence Lost National Initiative and 2019 FBI Denver Operation Independence Day Results in Recovery of Child Victims from Commercial Sex Trafficking
The FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced the recovery or identification of 103 child victims and the arrest of 67 sex traffickers nationally through Operation Independence Day (OID). This initiative, a revamping of the previously successful program Operation Cross Country (OCC), was executed during the month of July and culminated in 161 operations conducted nationwide. In Denver, the FBI and its law enforcement partners recovered and identified four child victims, eight adult victims, and arrested one sex trafficker. Additional sex traffickers have been identified and investigations are ongoing.
OID relied on the 86 FBI-led Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces (CEHTTFs), which leveraged the resources and intelligence of other federal, state, local, and tribal partners. Overall, more than 400 agencies are partnered with these task forces. Locally, the FBI Denver Division worked alongside investigators from the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol, Aurora Police Department, Denver Police Department, and Cheyenne, Wyoming Police Department.
The 2019 OID prioritized locating and rescuing missing minors who were at great risk for sexual exploitation, and arresting the traffickers exploiting them. Through its partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), FBI special agents and investigative staff reviewed information provided through NCMEC’s Cyber Tipline, to identify missing minor children at risk for sexual exploitation, and then worked with state and local partners to execute operational activities designed to recover those children and arrest traffickers.
To facilitate the health and welfare of recovered minors and adult trafficking victims, the FBI’s Victim Services Division and Victim Specialists stationed in each FBI field office worked alongside the task forces during the 2019 OID to ensure recovered children received the help they needed. Through NCMEC’s Innocence Lost National Initiative (ILNI) established in 2003, the FBI, along with its local law enforcement partners, established CEHTTFs nationwide to leverage resources and intelligence to identify and recover child victims and prosecute those responsible for their exploitation. Nationally, this collaborative effort has led to the recovery or identification of more than 6,600 child victims and more than 2,750 convictions, including more than 15 life sentences and many other sentences ranging from 25 years to life since 2003. Since the inception of the Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force in 2012, 612 child victims have been recovered. Investigations by the Task Force have resulted in the conviction of 303 sex traffickers, including the longest sentence of a sex trafficker in the nation. In 2017, Brock Franklin was sentenced in Arapahoe County court to 400 years to life in prison.
The FBI Denver Division would like to thank the Arapahoe and Douglas County Sheriff’s Offices, Colorado State Patrol, Aurora, Denver, and Cheyenne, Wyoming Police Departments and the United States Attorney’s Offices in Colorado and Wyoming for their invaluable partnership and assistance in the 2019 FBI Operation Independence Day.