LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Two hundred victims of sex trafficking were saved thanks to the nationwide enforcement campaign, Operation Cross Country.
Wednesday night, nearly 200 suspects are behind bars, accused of child sexual exploitation and human trafficking offenses.
As the lights go down, badges go on, research is completed and the mission ensues for one purpose, Operation Cross Country. This investigation aims to identify and locate victims of sex trafficking and arrest individuals involved.
Into the Light Executive Director Gretchen Smelters said her organization has been involved for many years.
“Our mission is to end child trafficking and bring hope to survivors,” Smeltzer stated.
The FBI partners with many local law enforcement agencies and organizations in the country over the two-week period.
“It’s great that there is a focused effort on it every year, I think more than anything it brings awareness to the issue, it helps people understand that this happens all over the nation,” Smeltzer said.
Gretchen said in the last quarter this year, their team served 131 individuals, most of those being children.
“A lot of us don’t like to think that this can happen in our state, could happen in Arkansas, or happen in my town, the reality is, it is happening and it could happen anywhere,” Smeltzer said.
According to the FBI, during the two-week operation, three victims were recovered in Arkansas, one person was arrested for attempting to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and a second arrest was made for a person connected with the recovery of a juvenile.
“It’s great to hear that victims are identified, victims are able to receive services, traffickers and predators are arrested,” Smeltzer said.
According to the FBI, they located 59 minor victims of child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation.
They also located 59 actively missing children during the two-week period.