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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 6, 2019

INNOCENCE LOST NATIONAL INITIATIVE AND OPERATION INDEPENDENCE DAY 2019 FBI Announces New Program Focusing on the Recovery of Child Victims From Commercial Sex Trafficking

DETROIT – The Department of Justice announced today the FBI-led recovery or identification of 103 child victims and the arrest of 67 sex traffickers through Operation Independence Day.  This initiative — a revamping of a previously successful program — was executed during the month of July through 161 operations conducted nationwide.

Operation Independence Day relied on the 86 FBI-led Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces (CEHTTFs), which leveraged the resources and intelligence of other federal, state, local, and tribal partners.  Overall, more than 400 agencies participate in these task forces.

In Detroit alone, nine juveniles were recovered and identified, two adult victims of sex trafficking were encountered, three pimps/exploiters were arrested and three federal investigations were initiated.  Detroit had the third highest number of juveniles recovered and identified in the country.  Several local law enforcement agencies participated in the operation which include, Michigan State Police, Detroit Police Department, Romulus Police Department, Canton Police Department, Highland Park Police Department, Madison Heights Police Department, Huron Township Police Department, Livonia Police Department, Roseville Police Department, Southfield Police Department, and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.

“Child sex traffickers prey on the most vulnerable members of our society – young girls and boys.  Through threats, violence and false promises, these traffickers compel their young victims to engage in sex acts for profit”, stated United States Attorney Matthew Schneider.  “I commend the hard work and dedication of the FBI, as well as all the state and local law enforcement agencies who took part in this very important operation.  We are committed to rescuing victims and putting the perpetrators behind bars.”

"The sale of our children and unsuspecting victims as mere commodities by traffickers is unacceptable and remains one of the highest priorities with the Detroit Division of the FBI," FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Rainer S. Drolshagen said. “Partnerships established with local, state and federal entities through our Southeast Michigan Trafficking and Exploitation Crimes (SEMTEC) Task Force, it is evident that combating sex trafficking in our communities is of the highest priority and we are honored to be able to lead that charge.”

Operation Independence Day prioritized locating and rescuing missing minors who are at great risk for sexual exploitation, and arresting the traffickers exploiting them.  To that end, through its partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), FBI special agents and intelligence analysts reviewed information provided through NCMEC’s CyberTipline, to identify missing minor children at risk for sexual exploitation, and then worked with state and local partners to execute law enforcement activity designed to recover those children and arrest traffickers.

The health and welfare of recovered minor and adult trafficking victims was a further priority.  To facilitate these efforts, the FBI’s Victim Services Division and victim specialists stationed in each of our 56 field offices also worked closely with the task forces during the operation to ensure recovered children received the help they needed.  Victim specialists put internal and external resources in place before the operation to ensure victim assistance was a priority in the aftermath of the law enforcement operations.

In June 2003, the FBI, in conjunction with the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and NCMEC, launched the Innocence Lost National Initiative (ILNI).  This combined effort was aimed at addressing the growing problem of domestic sex trafficking of children in the United States.  In the years since its inception, the ILNI has expanded to 86 dedicated CEHTTFs.  These task forces, with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the FBI’s Victim Services Division, have worked successfully to rescue thousands of children.

Through ILNI, the FBI, along with its local law enforcement partners, uses task forces to leverage resources and intelligence to identify and recover child victims and prosecute those responsible for their exploitation.  This collaborative effort has led to the recovery or identification of more than 6,600 child victims.  The initiative has also led to more than 2,750 convictions, including more than 15 life sentences and many other sentences ranging from 25 years to life.

In 2008, the ILNI initiated Operation Cross Country (OCC)—a focused, national campaign that targeted the venues where children were the victims of commercial sex trafficking.  Since 2008, there have been 11 iterations of OCC, recovering more than 900 child victims and arresting nearly 1,400 traffickers.  The last operation was held in October 2017 with 78 task forces participating.

The FBI determined that after 11 years of OCC success, it was time to re-evaluate the program.  The newly renamed Operation Independence Day was conducted over an entire month, rather than a few days, but continued to focus on the recovery of child victims from commercial sex trafficking.

The FBI’s Crimes Against Children and Human Trafficking Unit and DOJ coordinated the operation.  For additional information on Operation Independence Day and the Innocence Lost initiative, please visit: https://www.fbi.gov/oid2019

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Updated August 6, 2019