|'INNOCENCE LOST' STING
Sixteen-City Sweep Marks 5th Anniversary
Today we announced the results of an unprecedented five-day nationwide sweep targeting criminals involved in trafficking children for prostitution in the United States. The stings, dubbed “Operation Cross Country,” spanned 16 cities and resulted in the arrest of 389 people and the recovery of 21 children.
The Innocence Lost initiative was created in 2003 to address the growing problem of child prostitution in America. Our Criminal Investigative Division partnered with the Child Exploitation-Obscenity Section of the Department of Justice and with the nonprofit National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to bring together state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and social service providers. The initiative’s 24 task forces and working groups have recovered 433 children to date and seized over $3 million in assets.
“Child trafficking for the purpose of prostitution is organized criminal activity using kids as commodities for sale and trade,” said NCMEC President and CEO Ernie Allen during the press conference. “These kids are victims. They lack the ability to walk away. This is 21st century slavery.”
More than 350 state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies participated in “Operation Cross Country." The 16 cities targeted spanned the country, ranging from Boston to Miami to San Francisco. They focused primarily on rescuing kids and identifying the organized networks that target and traffic children. The operation was the largest since 2005, when a nationwide sweep identified some 30 child victims and led to the arrest of 19 individuals.
Our partnership with NCMEC has resulted in a significant number of success stories. Examples include:
In addition to the Innocence Lost initiative, our Crimes Against Children program manages Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) Teams, which support state and local law enforcement in investigations, and the Innocent Images National Initiative, which targets the proliferation of child porn.
The message to the public, NCMEC's Allen said, is: "If you see it in your city, if you hear about it, if you suspect it, report it."
To do that, please contact the NCMEC hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST or file a report through its CyberTipline.