TIME Crime

FBI Recovers 168 Children From Sex-Trafficking Rings Across the U.S.

FBI Director James Comey participates in a news conference on child sex trafficking, at FBI headquarters, June 23, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
FBI Director James Comey participates in a news conference on child sex trafficking, at FBI headquarters, June 23, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

The weeklong operation took place in more than 100 cities

The FBI has rescued 168 children and arrested 281 pimps in a weeklong child-prostitution sting operation carried out across the U.S., in partnership with local law-enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Operation Cross Country VIII took place in 106 cities across 54 FBI divisions, the bureau announced Monday. The various cross-country operations have to date rescued around 3,600 children and led to 1,450 convictions, more than a dozen of which have come with life sentences in prison. The FBI operation has also recovered more than $3.1 million in assets.

“Operation Cross Country reveals that children are being targeted and sold for sex in America every day,” said John Ryan, the CEO and president of NCMEC, in a statement.

Initial targets have typically included casinos, truck stops and websites advertising escort and dating services, as identified by local law enforcement. The FBI uses the information gathered from these busts to expand their search and to partner with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices to serve those running child-prostitution rings with federal charges.

“Child sex traffickers create a living nightmare for their adolescent victims,” Leslie Caldwell, assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, said in a statement. “They use fear and force and treat children as commodities of sex to be sold again and again. This operation puts traffickers behind bars and rescues kids from their nightmare so they can start reclaiming their childhood.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser