An 18-month-old baby was recovered during the sex trafficking operation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana yesterday when the child’s mother was arrested amid the FBI-led sex trafficking sweep. So far, the operation has recovered 84 children and netted 120 trafficking suspects nationwide.
The FBI New Orleans Division said Wednesday that the youngest victim recovered was only three months old. A total of four suspected human traffickers were arrested in Louisiana as part of Operation Cross Country XI, a crackdown that ran from Thursday through Sunday and focused on the human trafficking of minors. The FBI said the 18-month-old was not being trafficked but the mother was prostituting herself and brought the child to a meeting with an undercover agent posing as a customer.
As part of Operation Cross Country XI, FBI agents and task force officers staged operations in hotels, casinos and truck stops, as well as on street corners and websites.
“Child sex trafficking is happening in every community across America, and at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, we’re working to combat this problem every day,” said John Clark, the organization’s president and CEO, in an FBI news release.
“This operation isn’t just about taking traffickers off the street. It’s about making sure we offer help and a way out to these young victims who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of abuse,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in the release. “We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm. Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested–and the number of children recovered–reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work,” Wray said.
In Shreveport, the operation discovered a 17-year-old girl, still in high school, who was traveling to the city to engage in prostitution, according to the FBI. The girl was arrested as part of the sweep but following her arrest, law enforcement contacted the girl’s family, provided her with victim services, and offered her help from local nonprofit groups. Minors recovered during Cross Country Operations are offered assistance from state protective services and the FBI’s Victim Services Division. Depending on the level of need, victims are offered medical and mental health counseling, as well as a number of other services.
This recent bust forms the eleventh iteration of Operation Cross Country, which this year, has involved 55 FBI field offices and 78 state and local task forces nationwide. This year’s operations also involved international partners in Canada, the United Kingdom, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines, according to the FBI.
For more information on Operation Cross Country XI and the Innocence Lost initiative, visit the FBI’s website.
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