Over the past week, the FBI and multiple law enforcement agencies in Essex, Union, and Atlantic Counties conducted proactive enforcement operations in various cities, focusing on the identification and recovery of victims of sexual trafficking, announced Aaron T. Ford, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Newark Division. SAC Ford made the announcement on behalf of several law enforcement partners that took part in the operation.
The law enforcement activity was part of a national initiative known as Operation Cross Country VIII. Operation Cross Country supports the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which targets criminal enterprises responsible for the exploitation of children through prostitution. Operation Cross Country VIII took place in 106 cities in the United States and led to the rescue of over 168 minors. Over 281 suspects were arrested for allegedly transporting minors for the purposes of prostitution, among other violations. More than 500 law enforcement agencies participated in Operation Cross Country VIII.
In the three New Jersey counties where these operations took place, one minor, age 14, was rescued, and 45 pimps and prostitutes were arrested and charged with prostitution related offenses.
As part of these efforts, investigators also partner with experts in the field of human trafficking to seek evidence of sex trafficking where adults, as well as minors, are being victimized. Victim specialists with the FBI’s Office of Victim Assistance took part in the operations, providing services to the victims, such as shelter, food, clothing, medical attention, and counseling.
“The sex trafficking of our children remains one of the most heinous and unconscionable crimes in this country,” said Aaron T. Ford, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Newark Division. “I commend the FBI agents, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and all the state and local law enforcement officers for their diligence and dedication to the eradication of child prostitution from our communities.”
The FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative was established in 2003 to address criminal enterprises involved in the domestic sex trafficking of children. The program combines the resources of state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, social service providers, and non-governmental organizations. Training is provided with the assistance of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. These task forces, including nearly 400 state and local agencies, have recovered more than 3500 children from the streets across the United States.
Task force operations usually begin as local enforcement actions that target truck stops, casinos, street “tracks,” and websites that advertise dating or escort services, based on intelligence gathered by officers working in their respective jurisdictions. Initial arrests are often violations of local and state laws relating to prostitution or solicitation. Information gleaned from those arrested frequently uncovers organized efforts to prostitute women and children across many states. FBI agents further develop this evidence in partnership with U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section so that prosecutors can help bring federal charges in those cities where child prostitution occurs.
The FBI’s Newark Division works throughout the year with numerous law enforcement partners in multiple cities in the state of New Jersey. The following law enforcement departments participated in Operation Cross Country VIII:
- New Jersey State Police
- New Jersey Department of Human Services Police
- Absecon Police Department
- Egg Harbor Township Police Department
- Essex Falls Police Department
- Fairfield Police Department
- Linden Police Department
- West Caldwell Police Department
- Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office
- Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office
- Essex County Prosecutor’s Office
- Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office
- Union County Prosecutor’s Office
- Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office