By Robert Stitt
Straight outta Hollywood. In a drama that would have fit perfectly into the script of a major motion picture of Law and Order SVU, more than 500 law enforcement officials synchronized their watches and waited for the go sign. A nationwide sting was about to go down in 135 cities including metro Detroit. The target: pimps and their underage victims.
According to Fox2 Detroit, when zero-hour hit, law enforcement swarmed “hotels, casinos, truck stops, and other areas frequented by pimps, prostitutes, and their customers.” The FBI reported that 150 pimps were apprehended and arrested. Most importantly, however, the raids freed 149 sexually exploited children, including one who was only 12 years old. In Detroit alone, the sting netted 12 pimps and freed many children. The children received on-scene services such as “crisis intervention as well as resources for basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention” from around “100 victim specialists from the FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance”.
According to FBI – Detroit Division Special Agent in Charge, David P. Gelios, the sting, which involved the efforts of the FBI, state, and local authorities, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), was nicknamed Operation Cross Country IX, and was just one “part of an ongoing effort to continue to free victims of human trafficking, and arrest the individuals that commit these crimes.” He said that he very pleased with the results, however, “we, along with all of our law enforcement partners, do not stop here.”
Michigan State Police Captain Monica Yesh added, “Our department is committed to working with our law enforcement partners enforcing human trafficking laws and arresting the suspects who facilitate these horrific acts.”
The FBI lists this as the ninth annual action of this sort conducted under the umbrella of the Bureau’s Innocence Lost National Initiative. Operation Cross Country IX included 73 of the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Forces and was the largest of the nine stings.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch noted, “Human trafficking is a monstrous and devastating crime that steals lives and degrades our nation.” While the pimps will certainly be prosecuted, the FBI victim’s specialists asserts that “the most important part of the operation is to provide support and services for these young victims—to help stabilize them and get them moving forward in a positive direction.”