A multi-day, joint agency operation resulted in the recovery of 33 missing children who have been or were suspected of being sexually exploited or trafficked in Los Angeles. Operation Lost Angels was an initiative that began on Jan. 11 and included the efforts of the FBI along with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and more than two dozen law enforcement and non-governmental partners.
Kristi K. Johnson, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, made the announcement on Jan. 22 during Human Trafficking Awareness Month in which the agency confirmed that child trafficking cases have increased in recent years.
“The FBI considers human trafficking modern day slavery and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims,” Johnson 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.”
According to a FBI press release: “Of the 33 children recovered, eight were being sexually exploited at the time of recovery. 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. Several other victims located had been sexually exploited in the past and were considered vulnerable missing children prior to their recovery. Additionally, the operation resulted in the arrest on state charges of one suspected human trafficker and the opening of multiple investigations. Some of the minor victims were arrested for probation violations, robbery, or other misdemeanors. One child was a victim of a noncustodial parental kidnapping.”
The FBI initiated 664 human trafficking investigations nationwide in fiscal year 2020, which resulted in the arrest of 473 traffickers.
“Human trafficking is a pervasive and insidious crime that threatens the safety of our young people, who are the future of our communities,” Michel Moore, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, said. “We can only begin to take back the future of our youth with the strong partnerships forged between outstanding service providers and law enforcement.”