In less than a month, an FBI operation in Atlanta, Georgia, rescued 149 missing and exploited children as young as 3 years old and made 158 related “judicial actions” that include arrests and sentencings.
The rescues and arrests were part of “Operation Safe Summer,” which ran from May 1 to May 25. A June 5 FBI press release says the operation “was conducted near the start of the summer season to raise awareness and send an important message at a time the community’s children are most vulnerable to becoming targets for exploitation.”
It says the operation’s goal was “to combat child exploitation and child sex trafficking and make our community safer for our children heading into the summer months.”
According to a report from WSB-TV in Atlanta, the number of rescued children is now close to 160.
“They are crimes of special concern to the FBI and to law enforcement generally,” FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matt Alcoke told WSB-TV, “because the victims are so vulnerable as children and because the offenders could be from just about any walk of life, from a gang member all the way up to someone who is highly successful and wealthy.”
In one case, Jaquan Barnes was charged with sex trafficking and other charges. His arrest led to the recovery of a 17-year-old girl, according to a report from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In another case, Trevey Parks, who was already a registered sex offender, was charged with producing sexually explicit images of a minor.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, many of the cases were related to prostitution. The FBI report notes that the victims were between ages 3 and 17.
The operation was led by the FBI’s Metro Atlanta Child Exploitation Task Force (MATCH), and included 38 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. These included Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, county police, municipal police, and others.
The FBI has carried out several similar operations lately, including in Atlanta.
On Oct. 18, 2017, the FBI recovered 84 minors and arrested 120 human traffickers in a nationwide operation that lasted just four days.
“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray, in an FBI release for the October 2017 operation. “Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested—and the number of children recovered—reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children noted in the release that “Child sex trafficking is happening in every community across America.”