A January human trafficking investigation conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department and more than two dozen partner agencies resulted in the rescue of 33 missing children earlier this month, according to a statement released by the FBI Friday.
“Operation Lost Angels,” first began on Jan. 11 and led investigators to 33 missing children between the ages of 13 and 17 in Southern California. Of those 33, eight had been sexually exploited.
In the press release, officials said two of the children were found multiple times at known locations for commercial sex trafficking. The recurring rescues highlight the “harmful cycle” of abuse that many victims find themselves entrapped in, as many endangered children are often forced or coerced back into sex trafficking even after being rescued. Many others may not even realize they’re being trafficked.
Officials arrested one person on state human trafficking charges.
“Operation Lost Angels” opened multiple new investigations throughout the agencies. Some of the “minor victims” were arrested for probation violations, robbery or other misdemeanors, and one was a victim of a non-custodial parental kidnapping.
The FBI says their caseload for sex and labor trafficking has “increased significantly” in recent years. As of November, there were more than 1,800 pending trafficking investigations related to people of all ages, according to the FBI.
“The FBI considers human trafficking modern day slavery and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims,” Kristi Johnson, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said in the news release. “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.”
Anyone who believes they may be victims of human trafficking may call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (NHTRC) at 888-373-7888 or visit their website. The NHTRC is a national, confidential, toll-free hotline, with specialists available to answer calls at all times.
Those who wish to report incidents of suspected human trafficking may call their local FBI office or local police department. For more information about the FBI’s Human Trafficking investigations, please visit: https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/violent-crime/human-trafficking