The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Los Angeles field office said they rescued 33 missing children this month after being taken by a human trafficking operation.
Authorities said that eight of the 33 victims recovered during “Operation Lost Angels” were being sexually abused when they were found. FBI officials started looking for the missing children on January 11.
The bureau said two of the children were recovered multiple times during the operation, which they noted was fairly common. Rescued victims would frequently return to commercial sex trafficking either voluntarily or by some means of coercion.
“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. Victims may not self-identify as being trafficked or may not even realize they’re being trafficked,” a statement by the FBI read.
Authorities said a few of the victims were already recovered previously from similar sexually abusive situations and were considered vulnerable missing children. The FBI announced one alleged human trafficker was facing state charges during the investigation and that several others were opened.
The agency’s statement said some of the victims “were arrested for probation violations, robbery, or other misdemeanors.” It added that one fell prey to a noncustodial parental kidnapping.
Officials dedicated January as the Human Trafficking Awareness Month and noted that they had observed a sharp increase in cases of sex and labor trafficking compared to previous years, CNN reported.
Collaboration of Agencies
“The FBI considers human trafficking modern-day slavery, and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims. While this operation surged resources over a limited period of time with great success, the FBI and our partners investigate child sex trafficking every day of the year and around the clock,” Assistant Director Kristi Johnson of the Los Angeles field office said.
Several departments worked together to conduct the operation, including the Los Angeles Police Department and County Sheriff’s Department, as well as over two dozen law enforcement agencies. The FBI said they also collaborated with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the California Department of Child and Family Services.
“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,” said Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore.