Former President Donald Trump has made fighting human trafficking a top priority of his administration since the day he entered office. He signed an executive order in January 2020 focused on eliminating human trafficking and online child exploitation in the United States, which requires resources to be directed in ways that would result in the prosecution of offenders, assist victims, and expand prevention education programs.
The multi-day joint agency “Operation Lost Angels” involved more than two dozen partner agencies and was initiated on Jan. 11. The rescue operation recently culminated in the recovery of 33 children, Kristi K. Johnson, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said in a press release.
“Of the 33 children recovered, eight were being sexually exploited at the time of recovery,” FBI officials said in a press release.
“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.”
Johnson said people who become a victim of commercial sex trafficking and then return either voluntarily or by force, fraud, or coercion is not uncommon, even after being rescued in previous operations.
“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,” FBI officials said. “Victims may not self-identify as being trafficked or may not even realize they’re being trafficked.”
According to information obtained by local agency KTLA, the minors were aged between 13 and 17, though this hasn’t been confirmed in the FBI statement.
Officials announced one suspect accused of human trafficking was taken into custody on federal charges. The agency has since opened multiple investigations. Some of the recovered victims were arrested as well for allegedly being involved in violating probation, robbery, among other misdemeanors. One child was also the victim of a noncustodial parental kidnapping.
Johnson said the FBI considers minors who get engaged in commercial sex trafficking as victims while comparing human trafficking as modern-day slavery.
“The FBI considers human trafficking modern day slavery and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims,” the assistant FBI director said. “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.”
Michel Moore, the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, stressed that human trafficking is a threat to our youth, calling it “a pervasive and insidious crime.”