The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said on Friday that nearly three dozen missing children, including those who had been sexually exploited, were recovered this month during an anti-human trafficking operation led by the agency's Los Angeles field office.
The operation which involved multiple law enforcement agencies began on January 11 during Human Trafficking Awareness Month. As per the FBI statement, 33 children were rescued, including eight who were being sexually exploited at the time of recovery.
According to the authorities, some of the victims located during "Operation Lost Angels" were sexually exploited in the past and were considered vulnerable missing children. "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," said FBI.
The authorities arrested one person for his suspected involvement in human trafficking. The suspect faces state charges as a result of the operation.
FBI said it is not uncommon for rescued victims to return to commercial sex trafficking either voluntarily or by force or fraud. "This harmful cycle highlights the challenges victims face and those faced by law enforcement when attempting to keep victims from returning to an abusive situation," added the federal agency. In the statement, the FBI also said the victims may not self-identify as being trafficked or may not even realize that they are being trafficked.
Some of the victims were also arrested for the crimes such as robbery or violating probation. One child, rescued by the authorities, was found to be the victim of a noncustodial parental kidnapping.
To conduct "Operation Lost Angels", the federal investigators joined hands with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and other law enforcement agencies. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the California Department of Child and Family Services, and victim advocacy organizations also helped the officials.
Alex Villanueva, who is the Los Angeles County Sheriff, said that collaborating with the law enforcement partners is key to end the vicious cycle of modern-day slavery. "I'm committed to doing everything we can to stop human trafficking," he said.
The other state agencies which provided their assistance in this operation include the Wichita Police Department in Kansas, the Langston University Police in Oklahoma and the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
Michel Moore, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department said: "Human trafficking is a pervasive and insidious crime that threatens the safety of our young people, who are the future of our communities. We can only begin to take back the future of our youth with the strong partnerships forged between outstanding service providers and law enforcement."
Anyone who believes that they may be a human trafficking victim can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888 or visit the hotline's website. They can also contact the FBI which also has a human trafficking section on its website.