FBI: 28 teenagers rescued in Georgia in national sex trafficking operation

Nine teens were being commercially sexually exploited

Four people were arrested and 28 teen victims were rescued in Georgia during an FBI-led operation that focused on child sex trafficking over the past two weeks.

Nationally, 85 suspects were identified or arrested on child sexual exploitation and human trafficking charges, with 84 minor victims being rescued as part of the 12th run of Operation Cross Country, which took place from August 4 through August 14, the FBI said in a news release. A total of 37 missing children were also located, including 18 in Georgia.

“Operation Cross Country’s primary goal is to recover child sex trafficking victims and shine the spotlight on a national problem to raise the public’s awareness,” FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Keri Farley said during a press conference Tuesday. “We, as a law enforcement community, remain vigilant in taking down those who prey in our country’s most innocent population.”

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Farley credited metro Atlanta agencies, including Cobb County Police Department, Atlanta Police Department, Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Dunwoody Police Department and other agencies that worked on the Metro Atlanta Child Exploitation Task Force during Operation Cross Country.

“The FBI is a critical partner in our efforts to identify and rescue adults and children who are being victims of sex trafficking. It’s an issue that not a lot of people want to talk about but it certainly is prevalent, more than most people know,” Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan said.

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The operation also focused on adult sex trafficking victims; 141 such victims of human were located nationwide during the effort. This year’s average age of victims located during the operation was about 15, while the youngest victim was 11.

In Georgia, out of the 28 victims, nine were children who were being commercially sexually exploited. Victims’ ages in Georgia ranged from 14 to 17.

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The last Operation Cross Country took place in 2017 and yielded sixty arrests and four children rescued in Georgia. In 2019, the FBI-led Operation Independence Day, an expanded version of Operation Cross Country which took place throughout the month of July, led to seven child victims and four adult victims being rescued in Georgia.

Farley, who wouldn’t go into specifics about the operation, said most of the suspects identified use dating apps or online websites to contact child and adult victims. She encouraged parents to make sure to check their children’s online activity and have conversations with them about potential danger.

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“Sex trafficking is a heinous crime that impacts our youth and communities across the country,” Farley said. “We will never stop our efforts to bring child sex traffickers to justice and help child victims get to a safe place.”