(NewsNation Now) — A stunning monthslong operation involving multiple law enforcement agencies across Louisiana led to the rescue of five missing and endangered teenage girls from sex trafficking rings. The youngest girl was just 14 years old.
“Many of them made the choice to run away from their homes, but they don’t understand the consequences that they can get into at that young age at 14, 15, 16 years old,” Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto said on “Dan Abrams Live.”
Lopinto’s agency was heavily involved in “Operation Boo Dat,” which was named as a nod to the New Orleans Saints “Who Dat Nation.” It is a joint operation between the U.S. Marshals’ New Orleans Task Force, Louisiana State Police and several local police departments.
“These are the worst of the worst, finding them in these conditions and then trying to reunite them from something that they ran away from also, you know, really takes a taxing tole on not only our system, but the girls themselves,” Lopinto said.
Several of the teens were found in seedy motels and apartments living with adult men.
One of the worst cases, he said, was a 15-year-old whose pimp had been murdered, a situation that the people she relied on took advantage of; she was found living with a 17-year-old boyfriend, “meeting with adult males, obviously involved in prostitution.”
In Baton Rouge, the marshal saved two sisters ages 15 and 16.
In addition to rescuing the teen girls and getting them home to their families and social services, the operation also netted 30 arrests. More than half of those were felony sex offender registration violators.
“We have one I think was on rape of a 7-year-old,” Lopinto said.
During the operation, more than 100 sex offender compliance checks were also attempted or completed in Orleans and Jefferson parishes, according to a news release from the marshal’s office.
“It’s the seedier side of life that most people don’t get to see,” Lopinto said. “And we’re lucky in law enforcement to really go out there and hopefully make some differences.”