Federal Sex Trafficking Sting Rescues 3 Teens in Oklahoma

Human sex trafficking is a term that long conjured images of seedy back alley dealings in far-off countries, but in recent years, it has become shockingly clear that human trafficking is a significant and growing problem within the borders of the United States. In the past, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) primarily investigated human labor trafficking, leaving sex trafficking investigation and prosecution to the individual states. Underage prostitution and sex trafficking have grown to such a degree, however, that the FBI is now taking an aggressive stand, cracking down on human trafficking across the nation. Operation Cross Country is borne of the FBI's Innocence Lost National Initiative, and these sweeps are a collaboration of the FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and hundreds of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. What these human trafficking crackdowns have discovered is shocking. The seventh iteration of Operation Cross Country is the task force's largest to date, involving nearly 4,000 law enforcement officers from 230 agencies. Over a 72-hour period, Operation Cross Country VII resulted in more than 150 arrests for pimping and related crimes in 76 cities, and rescued 105 children and teens from sex trafficking. Some reports say the youngest victim freed was only 9 years old. In Oklahoma City alone, three juvenile girls, a 16-year-old and two 17-year-olds were rescued from engaging in underage prostitution. Oklahoma City also saw 10 arrests for pimping or aiding prostitution, 37 arrests for engaging in prostitution, and 11 arrests for offering to engage in prostitution. Those arrested as part of Operation Cross Country VII will likely face both federal and state charges. According to the FBI, the Innocence Lost National Initiative has recovered more than 2,700 sexually exploited children since its creation in 2003. In 2008, Operation Cross Country II rescued 47 teens aged 13-17 from sex trafficking. In 2010, Operation Cross Country V freed 69 victims of underage prostitution. John Ryan, CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says, “Operation Cross Country demonstrates just how many of America’s children are being sold for sex every day, many on the Internet." In addition to finding and convicting the pimps who prey on disenfranchised youth, forcing or coercing them into prostitution, the Innocence Lost National Initiative has discovered more about how human sex trafficking is perpetrated, giving law enforcement more insight to prevent and prosecute sex traffickers. Human trafficking frequently uses the internet to solicit customers, and major sporting events bring lots of customers with money to spend who are looking for a "good time." Operation Cross Country VII is reported to be the largest and most successful sex trafficking sweep to date, with identification of pimps and victims increased by 30 to 40 percent over previous sweeps, according to Ron Hosko, the Assistant Director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division.