FBI finds 17 adult victims in the Phoenix area during nationwide sex trafficking sting

Operation Cross Country is a national effort by the FBI to uncover human and child sex...
Operation Cross Country is a national effort by the FBI to uncover human and child sex traffickers.(Federal Bureau of Investigations)
Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 2:20 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 16, 2022 at 5:35 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A nationwide effort by the FBI to find sex trafficking victims led to the discovery of 17 adult victims in the Phoenix area.

During the first two weeks of August, 84 children who were victims of child sex trafficking and 37 actively missing children were found during “Operation Cross Country,” an initiative to find those involved in both child sex trafficking and human trafficking. While federal officials said no children were found in Phoenix and the surrounding area, 17 adults were located during local operations from August 8 through August 12. Details surrounding those local operations weren’t released, but the the FBI says since the start of the year, agents have recovered more than 15 minors in Arizona.

The Phoenix Police Department’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit often partners with FBI agents during these operations.

“Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes the FBI encounters,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Unfortunately, such crimes—against both adults and children—are far more common than most people realize. As we did in this operation, the FBI and our partners will continue to find and arrest traffickers, identify and help victims, and raise awareness of the exploitation of our most vulnerable populations.”

FBI agents say while the average age of the victims located this year is about 15 years old, the youngest victim discovered was just 11 years old.

“This national operation highlights the need for all child-serving professionals to continue to focus on the wellbeing of children and youth to prevent them from being targeted in the first place,” said Michelle DeLaune, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

More than 200 state, local, and federal partners conducted 391 operations over a two-week period.