• Officials: Dozens of children rescued, hundreds arrested in child sex-trafficking operations

    By: Kristen Dressel , Action News Jax


    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The FBI announced Tuesday that domestically dozens of children were rescued and hundreds of traffickers were arrested in one of the largest child sex-trafficking operations in U.S. history.

    Operation Cross Country X have been announced in several cities across the country.The international effort focusing on underage human trafficking took three days, from Oct. 13 to Oct. 16. 

    The FBI in Jacksonville announced that a 16-year-old girl was recovered, and an adult prostitute and three pimps were arrested in Pensacola. In Jacksonville, 26 adult prostitutes were identified and arrested.

    "I have kids so anytime you're dealing with a minor it pulls at your emotional strings in terms of how they did get into that situation and our goal is to help them get out of it by providing victims services to them," said Carlton Peeples, assistant special agent in charge. 

    In Atlanta, two adults were arrested for forcing two girls, a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old, into drugs and prostitution. The FBI said the 14-year-old died from an overdose.

    Officials said the arrests were made at hotels, truck stops and street corners. 

    “Operation Cross Country aims to shine a spotlight into the darkest corners of our society that seeks to prey on the most vulnerable of our population,” said FBI Director James Comey. “As part of this effort, we are not only looking to root out those who engage in the trafficking of minors, but, through our Office of Victim Assistance, we offer a lifeline to minors to help them escape a from a virtual prison no person ever deserves.”

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    In all, the FBI said 82 children were rescued and 239 people were arrested. The youngest recovered U.S. victim was 13 years old, officials said.

    “Child sex trafficking is a global problem, and we must throw every resource we can at combating it,” said NCMEC director John Clark. “All of us at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are proud to work side by side with the FBI and their law enforcement partners as we work tirelessly every day to find and rescue child victims and while ensuring that those responsible for this horrible crime are held accountable.”

    Law enforcement partners in Cambodia, Canada, the Philippines and Thailand had similar operations in their countries, officials said. 

    Action News Jax is following the story. Watch Action News Jax and follow us on Twitter @ActionNewsJax for the latest. 

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