Raw Footage: Operation Independence Day

Atlanta, Houston, and Denver were among the cities that took part in Operation Independence Day, a monthlong nationwide initiative in July 2019 to find human traffickers and rescue their underage victims.

Video Transcript

DeKalb County Police Detective: The DeKalb County Vice Unit, which is a part of the FBI MATCH Task Force, will be conducting an Operation Independence Day, which is an ongoing operation for the entire month of July.

The objective of the operation is to identify potential victims—underage females or males—who are forced into sexually explicit activities. The objective also is to rescue, recover, and provide all available resources for the victims who are exploited. So that’s what we are focusing on today in reference to trying to locate underage females and giving them help. Because they are victims. So we're not going to treat them as suspects.

Jeanette Milazzo, Special Agent, Houston FBI: What you see here specifically related the Houston Field Office is a partnership with the Houston Police Department and the Fort Bend County Precinct 3 Constable’s Office.

We have undercover officers here who are helping us out on various social media sites and escort sites looking for runaways, looking for essentially juveniles who have been posting themselves for commercial sex.

Once they make contact with that juvenile—and sometimes adult victims—then they will make a fake date with them wherein they’ll be intercepted at a predetermined location and brought back to this location where they will be interviewed and then provided services if they so request, and then transported to the hospital for a forensic examination.

We are here to rescue children and we are here to build good cases against traffickers. If we have developed enough rapport with the victim, we will build a case against their trafficker and hopefully charge them in federal court.

Radio Voice: Just make sure we don't have any cars visible in that area.

Radio: We parked on the south side. I’m going to see if we can get him to walk over here.

Radio: He’s almost to our car, so if you want to roll up here, that’s fine.

Victim Specialist: Do they know anything at all about you being online? They know about you being online? Have you been pretty open with them?

Anne Darr, Victim Specialist, Denver FBI: A lot of the operations that we do also include social media operations. And typically what we see is underage minor boys who are engaging in unsafe methods online where they agree to meet for a date in exchange for money or anything of value.

And so it’s important that we intervene and that we provide education, awareness, and resources to them. So that way they don't go back online and could meet somebody who could be an online predator.

Radio Voice: We’re on the south side of 7-Eleven.

Darr: What they essentially are doing is extremely dangerous. You never know who you’re going to meet on the other end. It could be a pimp. It could be an online predator. Somebody that’s going to exploit them, who could essentially rape them, take their money, do whatever to harm them.

So, we want to make sure that we’re intervening and doing that outreach to them.

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