More than 30 missing children have been rescued from human trafficking since a police operation launched on January 11.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation announced on Friday (local time) 33 children have been recovered in the Southern California area.
All of the minors were aged between 13 and 17, according to KTLA.
“Of the 33 children recovered, eight were being sexually exploited at the time of recovery,” FBI officials said in a press release.
“Two were recovered multiple times during the operation while on the ‘track’, a common term used to describe a known location for commercial sex trafficking.”
The FBI says it is not uncommon for rescued victims to return to commercial sex traffic, sometimes voluntarily, other times by force, fraud or coercion.
“This harmful cycle highlights the challenges victims face and those faced by law enforcement when attempting to keep victims from returning to an abusive situation,” the organisation said.
“Victims may not self-identify as being trafficked or may not even realise they’re being trafficked.”
Several other victims who were rescued had been sexually exploited in the past and were considered to be vulnerable missing children before the recovery, the FBI said.
Some of the minor victims recovered in the operation were arrested for probation violations, robbery or other misdemeanours and one child was the victim of a noncustodial parental kidnapping.
A suspected human trafficker was also arrested and the operation led to several investigations being opened.
“The FBI considers human trafficking modern day slavery and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims,” Assistant Director in Charge Kristi K. Johnson, of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said.
“While this operation surged resources over a limited period of time with great success, the FBI and our partners investigate child sex trafficking every day of the year and around the clock.”
In the past several years, sex and labor trafficking related crimes has increased “significantly”, the FBI said.
In 2020, 664 human trafficking investigations were conducted nationwide, which resulted in 473 traffickers being arrested.
As of November last year, there were more than18,000 pending investigations related to trafficking.
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