Hundreds of trafficking victims rescued in FBI operation

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(NewsNation) — More than 200 people are out of the hands of human traffickers following an FBI operation across the country that netted 85 suspects.

Dubbed “Operation Cross Country,” the two-week bust resulted in the rescue of 141 adults and 84 minors. The average age of the minors was 15 and the youngest just 11 years old. In all, 85 people were arrested or identified.

The Department of Justice and FBI said they found 37 actively missing children.

“The Justice Department is committed to doing everything in our power to combat the insidious crimes of human trafficking that devastate survivors and their families,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

While this was a nationwide effort, some cities saw more results than others. The city of Atlanta ranked just behind Washington, D.C., in 2019 for the most cases of human trafficking.

Special Agent in Charge Keri Farley says a lot of minors are found through online communication, but that’s also how they busted a lot of the traffickers.

“Most are using dating apps, and many are encrypted,” she said.

Officers in and around Atlanta took part in the operation.

“We do a lot of the legwork. We do the takedowns, secure the scene, etc. But the real work happens in those interview rooms. This is where you really get down to the nitty gritty, and you can identify true victims,” said Lt. Oliver Fladrich of the Dunwoody Police Department.

Once a victim is found, specialists interview them to learn details that could lead police to their abuser and other victims. One of these specialists is a sex trafficking survivor herself, who goes by the name Megan.

She was 17 when she was pulled into the world of human trafficking after she was swept off her feet by a man she met. She was saved six years ago.

“He was gorgeous, and he had charm. I just wanted someone in my life to show me attention for a change, instead of being ignored,” Megan said. “I invested so much time and so much money into Juan that everything was tied into him. I didn’t have a house, I didn’t have a bank account, I didn’t have my own car. I didn’t have anything. So if I left Juan, I left everything.”

Megan is now 27, working full time and attending college where she is an honor student studying psychology. She succeeded largely due to the services that law enforcement provides for victims.

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