The district attorneys' offices of Alameda and Contra Costa c0unties held a joint press conference Wednesday with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to announce nine arrests in the last two weeks as part of a national anti-human trafficking operation.
Operation Cross Country is an annual crackdown effort to combat the scourge of human sex trafficking which began 13 years ago in the Bay Area. As the East Bay Times reports, the operation has since gone national, and Wednesday was the day of nationwide announcements by the FBI and local jurisdictions about the results of a two-week sweep.
In the Bay Area, nine trafficking suspects were arrested as part of the operation, and 21 victims were identified and offered aid. Of those, 17 were adults and four were children. Across the country in the last two weeks, as NBC News reports, 59 missing children were found as a result of the operation, and over 200 trafficking victims were found.
"Sex traffickers exploit and endanger some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cause their victims unimaginable harm," said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a statement. "This operation, which located 59 actively missing children, builds on the tremendous work the FBI has undertaken over many years to rescue minor victims and arrest those responsible for these unspeakable crimes."
Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton said at Wednesday's press conference that charges would be "forthcoming" for the suspects, but no names were being publicized yet.
Becton added that 13 percent of all national trafficking reports come from this state, and "This crime is a real problem here in California."
Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Greg Boller also spoke at the event and discussed the "victim-centric" approach that authorities took, making sure to be present to offer immediate services to victims as they were separated from their traffickers and pimps.
“Our goal is to stop predatory behavior. Pimps are predators," Boller said.
In the national operation, 68 suspected traffickers were identified.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) partnered with the FBI on the operation, and federal officials said they "focused on identifying and locating victims of sex trafficking and investigating and arresting individuals and criminal enterprises involved in both child sex and human trafficking."
"Behind every statistic, there is a person with dreams, aspirations, and the right to live a life free from child sex trafficking and exploitation," said NCMEC President and CEO Michelle DeLaune in a statement. "As a society, we must work together to ensure the protection, support, and empowerment of those impacted by this heinous crime."
In Alameda County in June, a legal battle erupted between the City of Hayward and the county over the care of foster youth — who Hayward officials say often go missing from the Alameda County Children's Assessment Center, which is in Hayward. The city blamed county officials for the fact that foster children go missing and are "knowingly exposed to and/ or coerced into drug use, assaults and other forms of violence, sex trafficking and prostitution."
The county denied this characterization, and suggested that Hayward officials were referring to "recent isolated incidents with certain high needs foster youth."
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