Yesterday officers with the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the results of a multi-agency operation which took place in California during Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Operation Lost Angels began on January 11, Assistant Director in Charge Kristi K. Johnson of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office announced in a release yesterday. Partnering with multiple agencies including the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office, Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Long Beach Police Department and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, resulted in the recovery of 33 children.
"Of the 33 children recovered, eight were being sexually exploited at the time of recovery. Two were recovered multiple times during the operation while on the “track,” a common term used to describe a known location for commercial sex trafficking. It is not uncommon for victims who are rescued to return to commercial sex trafficking either voluntarily or by force, fraud, or coercion."
It is unclear why the two who were recovered multiple times were not taken into protective custody to begin with.
Several of the children recovered "had been sexually exploited in the past and were considered vulnerable missing children prior to their recovery" and one "was a victim of a noncustodial parental kidnapping."
During the operation, one individual was arrested on state charges of suspected human trafficking. Multiple investigations into others were opened.
"The FBI caseload for both sex and labor trafficking-related crimes has increased significantly in the past several years. As of November 2020, there were more than 1,800 pending trafficking investigations, including those involving minors exploited through commercial sex trafficking."
The statement from the FBI further reports that during 2020 the agency initiated 664 human trafficking investigations across the nation which resulted in the arrests of 473 traffickers.
The FBI releases annual reports on human trafficking which can be found here. The most recent data is still from 2019.
“Human trafficking is a pervasive and insidious crime that threatens the safety of our young people, who are the future of our communities,” said Michel Moore, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. “We can only begin to take back the future of our youth with the strong partnerships forged between outstanding service providers and law enforcement.”
“Collaboration with our law enforcement partners is key to ending the vicious cycle of modern day slavery. I’m committed to doing everything we can to stop human trafficking,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva stated.
Anyone that is a victim of human trafficking is encourage to contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888 or through their website. They have people able to talk 24/7 and can provide assistance in connecting you with resources to escape the cycle.