A two-week operation led to the arrests of 126 suspects in cases related to human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In addition to the arrests, the FBI said it identified and located 200 victims of sex trafficking. Fifty-nine of those victims are reportedly minors.
“Sex traffickers exploit and endanger some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cause their victims unimaginable harm,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The victims have been offered support services to make sure their immediate needs are being met, the Department of Justice said. The services reportedly include crisis intervention, food, clothing and housing.
“This operation would not be possible without the commitment and collaboration from our state and local law enforcement partners, and it demonstrates our continued focus on actively pursuing the criminals responsible for these heinous violations and connecting those impacted with dedicated victim services and resources," said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Human trafficking has long been a problem in all corners of the world, and appears to be a growing issue in the U.S. According to the DOJ, more than 1,300 people were prosecuted for human trafficking crimes in 2020, an 84% increase from 729 in 2011.
Federal officials work with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to identify the victims and bring charges.
“Behind every statistic, there is a person with dreams, aspirations, and the right to live a life free from child sex trafficking and exploitation," said Michelle DeLaune, president and CEO of NCMEC. "As a society we must work together to ensure the protection, support, and empowerment of those impacted by this heinous crime."
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