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'Operation Independence Day': FBI's Month-long Sweep Targets Sex Traffickers, Recovers More Than 100 Minors 

08-13-2019
A suspected pimp who was apprehended as part of Operation Independence Day by Houston Police Department officers working on the FBI task force waits to be booked. (Image credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation)
A suspected pimp who was apprehended as part of Operation Independence Day by Houston Police Department officers working on the FBI task force waits to be booked. (Image credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation)

Dozens of sex traffickers across the country have been arrested as a result of a month-long operation led by the FBI. The investigation has also led to the identification and recovery of more than 100 juveniles. 

Called "Operation Independence Day," the probe was conducted by more than 400 law enforcement agencies working with the FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces in the bureau's 56 field offices.

FBI agents worked closely with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to identify young runaways, missing kids, and juveniles who may have been subjected to human trafficking.

The bureau reports 103 juveniles were identified or recovered and 67 alleged traffickers were arrested. The sweep also resulted in 60 new federal investigations. 

"The FBI is fiercely focused on recovering child victims and arresting the sex traffickers who exploit them," FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. "Through operations like this, the FBI helps child victims escape the abusive life of sex trafficking."

In the past, the FBI conducted only week-long sweeps to arrest traffickers and recover underage victims. This year, the bureau gave its field offices to plan and execute their operations as part of a national initiative to stop sex traffickers. 

"We are here to rescue children, and we are here to build good cases against traffickers," said Jeanette Milazzo, a special agent who led one of the Houston Field Office's task force operations in early July. 

"If we have developed enough rapport with the victim, we build a case against their trafficker and hopefully charge them in federal court," Milazzo said.

The FBI and NCMEC, along with the Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, launched the Innocence Lost National Initiative in 2003 to combat sex trafficking of children in the US. To date, the collaboration has led to the recovery or identification of more than 6,600 child victims and more than 2,700 criminal convictions of traffickers.

In his remarks, Director Wray said the FBI's focus on the issue is not confined to a single week or month each year. The effort to find and stop traffickers and recover kids is ongoing and continuous.

"Our agents, intelligence analysts, professional staff, and victim specialists work tirelessly before, during, and after these operations to make sure that victims get the help they need to reclaim their lives," Wray said.

Watch the FBI's Video Below on Operation Independence Day.

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