Operation Cross Country X, Southeast Michigan
David P. Gelios, special agent in charge of the Detroit Division of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced today that over the weekend, law enforcement agencies and service providers throughout Southeast Michigan took part in Operation Cross Country X (OCCX). OCCX is a nationwide initiative by the FBI to recover juveniles who are being trafficked as prostitutes across the United States and overseas. The keystone elements of OCCX were FBI sponsored Child Exploitation Task Forces (CETFs). These CETFs consist of federal agents and detectives from state/local law enforcement agencies who investigate crimes against children, including human trafficking and child pornography.
Beginning on October 13, 2016 and operating through October 15, 2016, the FBI’s Southeast Michigan Trafficking and Exploitation Crimes (SEMTEC) task force and member of the Macomb County Child Exploitation task force conducted undercover operations in the greater Detroit metropolitan area in an effort to recover juveniles and human trafficking victims. SEMTEC conducted these operations in partnership with the following agencies:
- Michigan State Police
- Detroit Police Department
- Warren Police Department
- Canton Police Department
- Romulus Police Department
- Huron Township Police Department
- Roseville Police Department
- Southfield Police Department
- Livonia Police Department
- Dearborn Police Department
- Highland Park Police Department
- Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office
- Homeland Security Investigations
Investigative efforts resulted in the recovery of six child victims of juvenile sex trafficking and the arrest of 10 traffickers (or pimps and their associates). Additionally, 46 adults involved in prostitution were temporarily placed into custody. Service providers from a number of organizations, lead by the Salvation Army, were on-hand to offer a variety of services within the community such as job training, housing, counseling, and medical and education assistance. Additionally members from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services aided in the needs and placement of all the child victims recovered during the operation.
“The success of OCCX in Michigan is due to the local, state, and federal partners who share the same passionate commitment to disrupt and prevent the sexual exploitation of children and adults," said David P. Gelios, special agent in charge, Detroit Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “While the recovery of juvenile victims of this exploitation remains our priority, the FBI will continue to fight this battle and conduct these operations as long as anyone is being commercially trafficked and exploited.”
On October 17, 2016, James Comey, Director of the FBI, was joined by several national and international law enforcement executives, to include Chief James Craig of the Detroit Police Department, during a press conference in San Diego during which the accomplishments of OCCX were announced.
The annual OCC operation is one element of an ongoing national strategy to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). Throughout the year, FBI child exploitation task forces (CETFs) in Michigan conduct investigations and operations throughout the state. A challenging element of this criminal activity is that pimps and their victims often travel throughout the nation to engage in prostitution and do not necessarily reside in the area where they are located by authorities. Nationwide operations like OCCX allow law enforcement to expand their efforts during a focused period of time. In this fashion, the FBI and its partners are able to cast a broad net which gives law enforcement a better opportunity to identify, locate, and recover victims before they are moved to another area. In addition, the intelligence gained from simultaneous operations conducted across the country gives investigators a better understanding of the criminal threat.
The SEMTEC task force is one of three FBI sponsored CETFs in the State of Michigan. CETFs are also located in Macomb County and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
These CETFs provide a rapid and effective investigative response to crimes involving the victimization of children. These task forces strive to reduce the vulnerability of children to acts of sexual exploitation and abuse. The task forces also strengthen the capabilities of federal, state, and local law enforcement through training programs and investigative assistance.
OCC is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which began in 2003. Since its creation, the program has resulted in the identification and recovery of more than 6,000 children from child sex trafficking and has resulted in lengthy prison sentences being handed down to defendants who have exploited children.
OCCX was a success in Southeast Michigan because of the dedication of state and local law enforcement officers and victim service specialists.
Michigan State Police Captain Monica Yesh said, “The Michigan State Police will continue to support the efforts to combat human trafficking and rescue victims from the manipulation and violence of suspects who take advantage of vulnerable children and adults in our community. Our department is committed to working with the SEMTEC Task Force and our law enforcement partners enforcing human trafficking laws and arresting the suspects who commit these horrific acts.”
“Our agency is proud partner of the FBI and their efforts to eradicate the exploitation of children through our involvement with the SEMTEC task force and further our participation in OCC X. As one of the nation’s preeminent task forces focused on human trafficking matters, it is clear each participating department is dedicated to mission and to the victims of these heinous crimes. I am further grateful to many of the community groups and service providers which have aided in our fight and been there to meet so many of the needs of the children who have been taken advantage of,” said Everette Robbins, director of Public Safety, Huron Township Police Department.
“The Canton Police Department is pleased to partner with the FBI on operations such as Operation Cross Country X, in identifying those who exploit our children,” said Chad Baugh, deputy director of the Canton Police Department.
Other government partners invaluable in the success of OCCX in Michigan were:
- U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Michigan
- Michigan Department of Attorney General
- Homeland Security Investigations
- Department of Health and Human Services, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties
The FBI Detroit Division also thanks several non-governmental entities that provided support during OCCX:
- The Salvation Army
- Children’s Assessment Center
- Vista Maria
- Common Ground
- Alternatives For Girls
- Wayne County SAFE
- Children Village Oakland County