The FBI announced Wednesday that a sting operation successfully nabbed 120 sex traffickers and saved 84 kids including a 3-month-old girl.
“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested — and the number of children recovered — reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work.
Operation Cross Country involved 55 FBI field offices and 78 Child Exploitation Task Forces made up of 500 law enforcement agencies. Hundreds of law enforcement officers participated in sting operations in hotels, casinos and truck stops across the nation from Oct. 12-15.
During operations by FBI Denver’s Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force, for example, a 3-month-old girl and her five-year-old sister were recovered after a friend who was staying with the family made a deal with an undercover task force officer to sell both children for sex in exchange for $600.
The FBI took the 11th iteration of the operation international this time. Law enforcement agencies in Canada, the U.K., Cambodia, Philippines, and Thailand worked together with the Bureau to track and arrest the people responsible for selling children for sex.
“The threat of child sex trafficking is something the FBI works on every single day,” said Calvin Shivers, special agent in charge of the Denver Division. “Operation Cross Country gives us the opportunity to shine a light on this threat and to educate the public.” He added that while the focused law enforcement action has “an immediate impact” of recovering a significant number of juvenile victims, “we recognize that there is a lot more work to be done to identify and recover even more victims.”
Operation Cross Country is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which began in 2003. Since its creation, the program has resulted in the identification and recovery of more than 6,500 children from child sex trafficking and the prosecution of countless traffickers, more than 30 of whom have received life sentences for their crimes.
See How an FBI Task Force member saved Ali from a life of addiction and prostitution
Ali grew up in a middle-class suburb outside Philadelphia with parents who loved her and a wide circle of friends. She played sports and was a good student. In high school and in college—where she received an undergraduate and master’s degree in criminal justice—she drank alcohol and experimented with marijuana and other drugs, like many of her friends. Then she tried heroin.
William Johnson is a deputy sheriff with the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office and a member of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force in Philadelphia. One of the task force’s priorities is to combat human trafficking.