Officials from the FBI and 500 law enforcement partners announced that 149 underage trafficking victims were recovered and 153 pimps were arrested in a nationwide human trafficking operation conducted throughout the United States last week.

The initiative, dubbed Operation Cross Country IX, is a national effort spearheaded by the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, along with state and local law enforcement partners across the country.

The initiative targets the criminal enterprises responsible for the commercial sex trafficking of children.

The youngest victim in this year’s operation was 12 years old.

Of the 149 victims recovered, three of those minors were transgender, and three were males.

During the operation, 90 victim specialists provided on-scene direct services to the victims of sex trafficking, while 105 child victims received on-site direct services, which may have included crisis intervention and resources for basic needs like medical, food, clothing and shelter.

Due to the size of the operation, FBI victim specialists coordinated with local law enforcement victim advocates and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who provided additional support to the victims.

In Denver, FBI officials announced that 20 underage victims were recovered and seven pimps were arrested as part of the takedown.

The operation was conducted in Colorado and Wyoming.

The Casper Police Department and the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigations were listed as agencies who assisted with the bust, although no details of their involvement have been made available.

In one case, the operation rescued a 14-year-old girl who was being trafficked for sex on Colfax by a gang member.

She has reconciled with her family and is in a treatment program.

Of 135 cities participating in the operation, Denver ranks first for the number of juveniles recovered from trafficking.

This is the second year in a row the local operation recovered more juveniles than any other city in the country.

“Human trafficking is a monstrous and devastating crime that steals lives and degrades our nation,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “As a result of the FBI’s outstanding coordination and exemplary efforts alongside state and local partners during Operation Cross Country, more children will sleep safely tonight, and more wrongdoers will face the judgment of our criminal justice system. The Department of Justice will continue to aggressively and persistently fight this heinous crime, and to hold its perpetrators accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Operation Cross Country IX is the largest in the nine-year history of the initiative, with 53 FBI field offices and 73 Child Exploitation Task Forces, which include federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, taking part in the operation in 135 cities across America, including Colorado and Wyoming.

Nationwide, more than 500 law enforcement officials, including investigators and officers from federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations, conducted both “in-call” and “out-call” operations in hotels, casinos, truck stops, and in other areas known to be frequented by both prostitutes, sex-traffickers, and their customers.

“We’re not playing around. If you’re caught hurting and trafficking our children, we’ll do everything we can with prosecutors to put you behind bars forever and take away your freedom,” Thomas P. Ravenelle, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Denver Division, said.

Operation Cross Country is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost national initiative, which began in 2003.

Since the program’s inception, more than 4,800 children have been recovered from underage prostitution and prosecutors have obtained more than 2,000 convictions, including at least 15 that have resulted in life sentences.

Information Courtesy: The FBI