Operation Cross Country VIII Press Conference

Officials from the FBI and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children speak about Operation Cross Country at a June 23, 2014 press conference at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Video Transcript

FBI Director James B. Comey

Operation Cross Country is an effort that has gone on over the last week, in 106 cities, involving almost 400 law enforcement agencies, designed to rescue children who have been sold into the sex trade.

…These are our kids; on our street corners, our truck stops, our motels, our casinos. These are America’s children.

The lesson of Operation Cross Country is that our children are not for sale; that 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—you do that, and you’re risking your freedom and your life.

I hate that we have to do this work. I hate it. I love the people who are devoted their lives to doing this work. There is no more meaningful work that the FBI participates in, 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.

Leslie R. Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice

This operation puts traffickers behind bars, and rescues kids from that nightmare; so they can start reclaiming their childhood.

Over the coming weeks and months, the Justice Department’s criminal division through its child exploitation and obscenity section, will work with the FBI to follow leads developed from this operation to prosecute and incapacitate the worst offenders; to rescue additional victims to dismantle local and national criminal networks that traffic in children.

While the prosecution of these offenders and the lengthy prison sentences that get handed down in these cases are very important; the far more important result of these operations is the rescue of many children from the violent and dangerous life of forced prostitution.

We need the public’s help to find these children and providing that help is simple. Anyone with information that may involve the prostitution of children can contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Just one call, just one online report could mean all the difference for a child who now can only dream of a normal childhood and a life outside prostitution.

John Ryan, CEO, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

People don’t want to believe that children are being sold for sex, not in this country, but once again, operation cross country eight provides irrefutable evidence that they are; on street corners, in hotels, at truck stops, and increasingly on the Internet.

We know that missing children—especially children missing from the child welfare system are being targeted by traffickers.

Increasingly they are utilizing technology and recruiting online via social networking sites. The traffickers are using the mobile devices to stay in contact with the victims, maintain control over them, and actually capture the images documenting their abuse.

…But for operations like this, these children likely would never have been found.

Today, as a result of their efforts, 168 children now have the opportunity to recapture their lives.

Kathryn Turman, Director of the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance

The needs of the young victims are many and complex. Many of the children, who become victims of commercial sexual exploitation, were previously victims of abuse and neglect by the people who were charged with protecting and caring for them.

The cost of not doing enough to protect and assist child victims is enormous. More than three million reports of abuse involving more than six million children are made in the U.S. every single year.

Doing all we can to bring these children with their often invisible wounds out of the shadows is our mission and our privilege. A hundred years ago a wise man stated, “If the children are safe, then everyone is safe.” Victimization profoundly jeopardizes the healthy development of children and compromises their futures. It’s our collective future as well, thank you.

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