(NBCNEWS) – The FBI rescued 84 children from the grips of a multistate human trafficking ring and arrested 120 traffickers on Wednesday, the agency said in a statement.
Operation Cross Country XI focused the attention of law enforcement agencies on a single goal: taking out “pimps” who run human trafficking rings.
“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm. Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested — and the number of children recovered — reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work,” FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“This operation isn’t just about taking traffickers off the street. It’s about making sure we offer help and a way out to these young victims who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of abuse.”
The sting is part of a 2003 venture called the Innocence Lost National Initiative, which is responsible for finding and identifying 6,500 children since its inception.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, agencies “put an additional operational focus on pimps, particularly those involved in the human trafficking of minors,” the FBI said in its statement. “Pimps who force or coerce adults to engage in prostitution are also committing acts of human trafficking.”