FBI Announces Results of Operation Cross Country X
Child Sex Trafficking Crackdown Spreads to International Stage in 2016
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with representatives from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and several international law-enforcement partners, today announced that, domestically, 82 minors were rescued and 239 traffickers and their associates were arrested as part of Operation Cross Country X, an international effort focusing on underage human trafficking that ran from October 13 16, 2016. FBI Director James Comey and NCMEC Director John Clark announced the results of Operation Cross Country X at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) convention in San Diego on October 17.
This is the 10th iteration of FBI-led initiative, which took place across the United States and, for the first time, also in several countries around the world. Law enforcement partners from Cambodia, Canada, the Philippines, and Thailand had operations in their respective countries. In Canada, as part of a corresponding effort called Northern Spotlight, authorities recovered 16 children, while in Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines, authorities recovered 25 children, including a 2-year-old girl.
“Operation Cross Country aims to shine a spotlight into the darkest corners of our society that seeks to prey on the most vulnerable of our population,” said FBI Director Comey. “As part of this effort, we are not only looking to root out those who engage in the trafficking of minors, but through our Office of Victim Assistance, we offer a lifeline to minors to help them escape from a virtual prison no person ever deserves.”
Operations took place in a number of locations, including hotels, truck stops, and street corners. Minors recovered during an arrest are engaged with state protective services and victim assistance. Depending on the level of need, a law enforcement officer and, if available, an FBI victim specialist will accompany the survivor to obtain these services.
“Child sex trafficking is a global problem and we must throw every resource we can at combating it,” said NCMC Director John Clark. “All of us at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are proud to work side by side with the FBI and their law enforcement partners as we work tirelessly every day to find and rescue child victims and while ensuring that those responsible for this horrible crime are held accountable.”
Operation Cross Country X is the largest ever in the history of the initiative, with 55 FBI field offices and 74 Child Exploitation Task Forces representing more than 400 law enforcement organizations taking part in the operation. In addition, several dozen operations across Canada, and approximately 10 operations took place in six cities across Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
During the operation in San Diego, three minors were rescued and three pimps were arrested. In addition, 20 adult prostitutes were arrested. The rescued minors, as well as the adult prostitutes, were provided with victim services from the FBI, County of San Diego-Child Protective Services, and many non-government organizations.
Eric S. Birnbaum, FBI special agent in charge of the San Diego Field Division, credited the successful operation and children rescued to the participating law enforcement agencies, including the San Diego Police Department, San Diego Sheriff’s Department, California Department of Justice, Escondido Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Oceanside Police Department, San Diego County Probation, San Diego County District Attorney’s Office (DAOs), California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation-Division of Adult Parole Operations, Homeland Security Investigations, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the San Diego FBI, working together as the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force (HTTF) and the Child Exploitation Task Force (CETF). The operation was coordinated with the United States Attorney’s Office-Southern District of California and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
“The IACP is proud of the work of the FBI and the many agencies that have committed resources to Operation Cross Country,” said IACP 1st Vice President Chief Donald W. De Lucca of the Doral, Florida Police Department. “Child sex trafficking involves a number of complex crimes requiring law enforcement to collaborate with multiple law enforcement agencies and community partners to identify and respond to child victims, while holding accountable those who are responsible for their exploitation. We are committed to tackling this crime together because no one single agency, no single department, no single squad can attack this problem alone. It is too large, it is too prevalent, and it is too important.”
Operation Cross Country X is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost Initiative, which began in 2003. These teams work all year to recover minor trafficking victims. Since the inception of the program, there have been more than 6,000 child identifications and locations.