San Diego, California - During the past several days, the FBI, in partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement, conducted Operation Cross Country VIII to address commercial child and adult sex trafficking throughout the United States.
This operation included enforcement actions in 106 cities across 54 FBI field divisions nationwide and resulted in 168 recoveries of children who were being victimized through prostitution. Additionally, 281 pimps were arrested on state and federal charges.
In San Diego, the multi-city operation led to the recovery of two children and 35 adults who were being victimized through prostitution. In addition, a total of six pimps were arrested. All child victims, adult victims, and other victims in contact with law enforcement through this operation were offered victim services.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Daphne Hearn emphasized that “the FBI is committed to protecting our children, through efforts such as Operation Cross Country but also through our investigative and continued law enforcement efforts to take down the pimps trafficking children and adults. The FBI will continue to remove sexual predators from society and provide children and adults the services they need to recover from their involvement with human trafficking.”
Operation Cross Country is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, established in 2003 by the Criminal Investigative Division. The initiative was developed in partnership with the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to address the growing problem of child prostitution.
To date, the FBI and its task force partners have recovered more than 3,400 children from being exploited. The investigations and subsequent 1,450 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including 14 life terms and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets.
In 2014, FBI San Diego recovered seven additional children through investigations, adding to the 19 recoveries from the Operation Cross Country operations. Adults are often recovered or arrested for their involvement with sex trafficking during law enforcement operations like Cross Country as well. Through interviews during the process of gaining intelligence on child victims, in some cases, the adults will report they were also victimized as children and continued to be victims of human trafficking.
Task force operations usually begin as local enforcement actions that target truck stops, casinos, street “tracks,” and websites that advertise dating or escort services. The task forces utilize a “victim-centered philosophy” when assessing the recovered victims. The FBI has 122 trained victim specialists, with at least one in all 56 field offices.
In San Diego, there are two victim specialists who are on the front line, providing services to all victims. They ensure that every victim who accepts services is provided safe shelter, food, clothing, and access to additional services such as physical and mental health care, as well as other eligible services.
FBI San Diego conducted enforcement actions in partnership with San Diego Police Department (PD), San Diego Sheriff’s Department, Oceanside PD, Escondido PD, California Highway Patrol, Chula Vista PD, National City PD, and the Department of Homeland Security.