INDIANAPOLIS -- Several people accused of underage sex trafficking were arrested in Indiana in connection with a nationwide crackdown.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children announced Wednesday that 84 minors and 120 traffickers were arrested as part of Operation Cross Country XI, a nationwide effort focusing on underage human trafficking that ran from October 12 - 15.
In Indiana, several traffickers were identified and/or arrested in Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne and South Bend. Those names have not yet been released because the investigation is ongoing.
“By focusing on the identification of those responsible for commercial sexual exploitation of minors in Indianapolis, we were able to significantly impact online sex trafficking in the area and were able to further develop excellent relationships with our state, local and county law enforcement partners as well as our public health partners,” said Supervisory Special Agent Mike Langeman. “These operations will continue with the goal of locating and removing juveniles from sex trafficking and dismantling those responsible for commercial sexual exploitation.”
This year's operation was a joint effort by 55 FBI field offices, 78 state and local task forces, hundreds of law enforcement partners and several international partners. This is the 11th iteration of the FBI's Operation Cross Country crackdown.
As part of the operation, FBI agents and task force officers staged in hotels, casinos and truck stops as well as street corners and internet websites.
The youngest victim recovered during this year's operation was 3-months-old according to the FBI, and the average age of victims was 15 years old.
In Denver, a 3-month-old and her 5-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.
Minors recovered during the operation are offered assistance from state and protective services and the FBI's Victim Services Division. They also have access to medical and mental health counseling as well as other services.
“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,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “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."
Operation Cross Country XI is part of the FBI's Innocence Lost National Initiative, which has located and identified more than 6,500 children since it began in 2003.
The operation has also led to the prosecution of countless traffickers, more than 30 of whom have received life sentences for their crimes.
“This operation isn't just about taking traffickers off the street,” FBI Director Wray said. “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.”