FBI agents rescue 84 children, including 3 in NC, from human traffickers

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation rescued 84 minors, including three in North Carolina, this month during a nationwide operation that targeted underage human trafficking.

The youngest victim was a 3-month-old, the agency, along with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, announced Wednesday.

In addition to recovering child victims, the agency announced that 120 traffickers were taken into custody as a part of Operation Cross Country XI, a three-day effort that began Oct. 12 and ended Oct. 15, Shelley Lynch, a spokeswoman with the FBI’s Charlotte office reported.

The national operation included 55 FBI field offices and involved 73 state and local task forces with hundreds of law enforcement officers, intelligence analysts and victim assistance specialists, Lynch reported.

Thirteen law enforcement agencies across the state participated in operations in Raleigh, Fayetteville, Lumberton and Charlotte, with 11 people arrested on trafficking charges, Lynch reported.

Federal agents and local law enforcement officers staged operations in hotels, casinos, truck stops, Internet websites and street corners. The average age of the victims was 15, Lynch reported.

“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm,” FBI Director Christopher stated in the Wednesday news release. “Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested – and the number of children recovered – reinforces why we need to continue this important work. This operation isn’t just about taking traffickers off the street. It’s about making sure we offer help and a way out to these young women who find themselves caught up in a vicious cycle of abuse.”

Operation Cross Country XI is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost Initiative, which was established in 2003 and has helped in more than 6,500 child identifications and locations, Lynch reported.

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @thomcdonald