Maureen Reddy, Detroit FBI Violent Crimes Branch
Maureen Reddy, assistant special agent in charge of the Detroit FBI's Violent Crimes Branch, discusses the division's role in Operation Cross Country X.
So Operation Cross Country, we’re actually running it in three different locations throughout the state of Michigan. And we’re going out and attempting to rescue these juveniles that in most cases are being prostituted by pimps.
They’re generally using the Internet to market these young women—young children, actually.
So this initiative is just in the month of October. But our squad here, the Southeast Michigan Trafficking and Exploitation of Children Task Force, does this every day of the year. So it’s not as high profile; it doesn't reach the media the way this operation does. But these are operations that go on every day of the year.
I think one of the most important things we do, in this operation and other operations, is involve our local and state partners in it. They are critical to our success. We can't do it without them. And they are a force-multiplier that is instrumental to the success of this operation and other operations.
It’s mainly young girls, mainly between the ages of 12 and 17. A lot of these young girls are runaways from home. They either have very dysfunctional home environments or they’re abused at home. And generally what they do is, they’re picked up on the street by people—criminals, basically. Criminals who decide to use them as prostitutes, and they market them through the Internet and these young girls end up going out, having sex with men, and the pimps generally take the money.
Most of the girls that we come into contact with—some of them are from good homes and their parents report them missing. They’re runaways. Some are from good homes, but that’s by far the minority. Most are from dysfunctional homes or have mental health issues that haven't been dealt with properly. So when they run away from wherever they’re living—they’re seeking attention, or whatever they’re looking for—the pimp that finds them or the person that takes them to the pimp, that individual—that pimp—is providing them their perception of security.
That means they’re getting a small amount of money, usually, for what they do. They’re given, generally, food—not always. Sometimes they get no food. Sometimes they’re left in rooms and they're just trafficked out or marketed for sex. And they don't really get the security that you and I would understand to be comforting and secure. They’re just given maybe one meal a day; sometimes they get three meals a day. And they’re given a little bit of money. But at the end of the day, that environment oftentimes to them seems more tenable than the environment they came from, which is why they are there in the first place.
So when we rescue them, we try to get them into better functional environments. We will do whatever we can when we rescue them. If they need medical, we will get that for them. If they need to go to Vista Maria, we will get that for them. If their parents will come and get them, which would be the ideal situation, then we will turn them over to their parents. They are not arrested. They are never arrested. They are always turned over to either a social agency—a social service agency—or to their parents.
So what I would say to any young girl that’s experiencing this right now, that’s engaging in prostitution: Your life doesn't have to be like this. There is safety. There is security. If it’s not at your home, then there are people that can deal with this.
And what you need to do is come forward, go to your local police department, call your local FBI office, do what you need to do to get to a safe place because every child that’s born into this life deserves safety and security.
And we’re here to try and help you get there. Whether it’s the police, whether it’s the FBI, it’s so important that you come forward and tell us that you need help. You know you can also go to your school. Your school is equipped to deal with stuff like this, too. We just want you to be happy, healthy, and have a normal childhood and grow up to be a very productive adult.
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