James B. Comey
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Press Conference on Operation Cross Country VIII, FBI Headquarters
Washington, D.C.
June 23, 2014

Keeping America’s Children Safe

Remarks prepared for delivery.

Thanks to all of you for being here today. A special thanks to John Ryan and our friends at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. NCMEC marks its 30th anniversary this year. The work they do is truly noble, and we in the FBI are proud to be part of that work.

Operation Cross Country is now in its eighth iteration. In the past seven years, together with our state and local law enforcement partners, we have arrested 862 pimps engaged in the commercial sex trafficking of children. And together we have recovered 602 child victims.

This year’s operation was the largest to date, with 54 FBI field offices and 106 cities. Over the past several days, together with our state and local partners, we arrested 281 individuals on charges related to the sexual exploitation of children. And we recovered 168 children.

These are not children living in some faraway place, far from everyday life. These are our kids. On our street corners. Our truck stops. Our motels. These are America’s children.

We locked up 281 pimps over the last week. I want to say a brief word about what we mean by pimp. There’s a risk that people will imagine these folks as TV characters. They are not. They are people who are killing the souls of our children. Their actions are snuffing the life out of the most vulnerable and the most promising of our people.

The lesson of Operation Cross Country is that our children are not for sale. We will respond and crush these pimps who would crush these children. We will do this by seeking jail terms of many, many years, to send two messages. One, you will never do this again. Two, to others who might be tempted to crush the souls of children—if you do that, you are risking your freedom and your life.

We do not do this work alone. We worked with almost 400 law enforcement agencies at all levels, both state and local, and together with our partners at NCMEC, to try and make sure we are saving these children, and getting them the help they need, and sending the message that our children are not for sale.

I hate that we have to do this work. I hate it. I love the people who are devoted to doing this work. There is no more meaningful work that the FBI does than rescuing children. So my thanks to the men and women around this country who have spent the last week trying to save those kids.