On Monday, June 23 2014, FBI Director James Comey announced the results of Operation Cross Country, the FBI’s annual nation-wide investigation of child sex trafficking. The eighth installment of the sting covered 106 cities and resulted in the rescue of 168 sexually exploited children and the arrest of 281 pimps (1). The operation was a huge success and is a step forward in the fight to eradicate child sex trafficking.
Each year, Operation Cross Country increases awareness of child sex trafficking around the country with its annual campaign. Operation Cross Country grows regularly every year; last year the operation spread across 76 cities with 105 children rescued and 150 pimps arrested (2); the year before that 57 cities were investigated with 79 children rescued and just over 100 pimps arrested (3). The large increase of the operation’s size can be attributed to the realization of how effective the operation is and can be. The operation continues to expand to better fight child sex trafficking in more cities around the country. Yet for all the expansion of the operation it still only occurs during one brief week during the year.
The FBI reports that the total number of children it has rescued with its Innocence Lost National Initiative, which also runs Operation Cross Country, is 3,600 (1). The total number of children that have been rescued by Operation Cross Country is almost 600. That means nearly 1/6th of the children rescued by the FBI over the course of 11 years since the founding of the Innocence Lost National Initiative were rescued in only about 5 weeks (not including the assumed months of preparations and intelligence gathering), the combined length of all Cross Country operations. These numbers attest to the incredible success of the operation. Because of the effectiveness of these operations by the FBI, it is a surprise that this operation is contained to only one week a year. There needs to be a continual and focused effort of responding to child sex trafficking by law enforcement. This operation rescued an average of 24 children a day. 24 children are now off the streets and are receiving much needed help after one day. Imagine what it would be like if this was an ongoing operation, everyday hearing in the news that dozens of children have been saved from the horrors of sex trafficking. With an average of 24 children rescued a day, a full year Operation Cross Country would result in 8760 children rescued, which is a small proportion of the 250,000 kids estimated to be in trafficking (4), but still has a much larger impact than 168 children rescued from a one time annual enforcement action.
Operation Cross Country should be encouraged and pursued on a more regular basis than annually. The operation has done invaluable work for many children who have been abused and taken advantage of and will hopefully continue to combat the sex trafficking of children.