Operation Cross Country IX Expands Efforts to Recover Sexually Exploited Juveniles
This past week, two Child Exploitation Task Forces (CETFs) in Washington state recovered three juveniles and contacted 119 adults being victimized through prostitution. Some of the adult victims had been forced into engaging in prostitution since they were juveniles. The week-long local operations were part of Operation Cross Country IX (OCC9).
In Washington state, the CETFs recovered arrested 11 subjects suspected of commercially exploiting children and/or adults and related crimes. Investigators also interviewed another 15 subjects suspected of being involved in facilitating prostitution. Interviews with subjects and adults engaged in prostitution provided significant leads toward identifying other juveniles that are being victimized through prostitution. The CETFs recovered cash, drugs, a gun, and several vehicles during the operations.
Operations took place October 6-10, 2015, and for the first time included the Washington cities of Issaquah, Pasco, Kennewick, Spokane, and Yakima. Operations also occurred in Everett, Kirkland, Lakewood, Port Orchard, and Seattle and throughout King, Kitsap, and Pierce Counties. Victims and the pimps travel throughout eastern and western Washington to work and do not necessarily reside in the area where they were located this week.
Operations were also conducted in Vancouver, Washington, but by the Portland, Oregon-based CETF. The outcomes of those operations are being reported by the FBI Portland Field Office.
The multi-agency CETFs, working with additional partnering agencies, made contact with young women involved in prostitution through the use of undercover agents and detectives and by canvassing areas where street prostitution is known to occur.
All the victims were offered a variety of services within the community, such as job training, housing, counseling, and medical and education assistance.
The annual OCC operation is one element of an ongoing strategy to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). CETFs in Washington conduct investigations and operations throughout the state, year-round. A challenging element of this criminal activity, though, 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. By focusing efforts nation-wide during a focused period of time, the FBI and its partners are able to cast a broad net for a better opportunity to identify, locate, and recover victims before they are moved to another area. In addition, gathering intelligence from nearly simultaneous operations helps CETFs further understand this crime.
The FBI Seattle Division works with law enforcement partners on two dedicated Child CETFs in Washington State, based in Seattle and Tacoma.
- The North-Central Sound CETF is a partnership between the FBI, the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, KCSO contracted to SeaTac Police Department, and the Bellevue, Everett, Kent, Mt. Vernon, Port of Seattle, Renton, Tukwila, and Seattle Police Departments.
- The South Sound CETF in Tacoma is a partnership between the FBI, the Lakewood and Tacoma Police Departments, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
CETFs provide a rapid and effective investigative response to reported federal crimes involving the victimization of children. The task forces strive to reduce the vulnerability of children to acts of sexual exploitation and abuse and 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 the program’s inception, more than 4,800 children have been rescued from underage prostitution and prosecutors have obtained more than 2,000 convictions, including at least 15 that have resulted in life sentences.
OCC9 was successful in Washington because of the partnership of more than 50 entities.
OCC9 relied on extraordinary support by the Everett Police Department, the Issaquah Police Department, the Kirkland Police Department, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, the Lakewood Police Department, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, the Spokane Police Department, and the Tukwila Police Department, all which hosted command posts and provided significant resources.
Additional partners who participated in OCC9 were:
- Airway Heights Police Department
- Bainbridge Island Police Department
- Bellingham Police Department
- Benton County Sheriff’s Office
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
- Department of Homeland Security
- FBI Portland Field Office
- FBI Couer de’Alene Resident Agency of the Salt Lake City Field Office
- Federal Protective Service
- Franklin County Sheriff’s Office
- Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation
- Kalispel Tribal Police Department
- Kennewick Police Department
- Pasco Police Department
- Port Orchard Police Department
- Richland Police Department
- Skagit County Inter-Local Drug Enforcement Unit
- Snohomish Regional Drug & Gang Task Force
- Thurston County Sheriff’s Office
- University Place Police Department
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- Washington State Gambling Commission
- Washington State Patrol (WSP)
- WSP’s Missing and Exploited Children’s Task Force
- Yakima Police Department
Other government partners invaluable in the success of OCC9 in Washington were:
- Benton County Prosecutor’s Office
- Coast Guard Investigative Services
- Federal Bureau of Prisons
- Federal Protective Services
- Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office
- King County Juvenile Court-Probation Services
- King County Prosecutor’s Office
- Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office
- Pierce County Juvenile Justice and Detention Center
- Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office
- U.S. Attorney’s Office-Western District of Washington
- U.S. Attorney’s Office-Eastern District of Washington
- Washington Child Protective Services
- Washington Department of Corrections
- Washington State Fusion Center
- Yakima County Prosecutor’s Office
The FBI Seattle Division also thanks several non-governmental entities that provided support during OCC9. These entities include: Lutheran Community Services; the Providence Intervention Center for Assault and Abuse; AmVets Auxiliary, Post 1 Tacoma; Sons of AmVets, Post 1 Tacoma; and VFW Auxiliary, Post 10018 Tacoma.
Related story and raw footage:
- Operation Cross Country: Recovering Victims of Child Sex Trafficking