Over the weekend law enforcement from southeast Michigan joined the FBI to crack down on child sex trafficking right here in metro Detroit.
It’s called Operation Cross Country 10 and last weekend 82 children were rescued, six of them from right here in our community. The FBI says these children rescued from sex trafficking are as young as two years old.
“Operation Cross Country we’re actually running it in three different locations throughout the state of Michigan and we’re going out and attempting to rescue these juveniles which in most cases are being prostituted by pimps,” Maureen Reddy of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Branch said.
Police say it’s a growing problem with more and more juveniles being forced, tricked and threatened into sex trafficking.
“He beat me, he had me in hotel rooms by myself for weeks. I’d go hungry because I wouldn’t obey what he wanted me to do,” a survivor said.
Reddy says these victims often feel trapped with nowhere to go.
“It’s mainly young girls, mainly between the ages of 12 and 17,” she said. “These young girls are runaways from home, they either have very dysfunctional home environments or are abused at home.”
She led the way as Operation Cross Country arrested 10 traffickers here in southeast Michigan and 239 nationwide and abroad.
“We will do whatever we can once we rescue them, if they need medical we will get that for them, if they need Vista Maria, we will get that for them,” Reddy said.
The message to these juveniles? You are a victim.
“They are never arrested, they are always turned over to either a social agency, social service agency or their parents,” she said.
“I have learned I really didn’t sign up for this and I’m glad I got away because I was able to repair myself,” the sex trafficking victim said.
And it’s sweeps like Operation Cross Country 10 and stories like that young girls that Reddy hopes gives other victims the strength and hope to fight to get out.
“Your life doesn’t have to be like this, there is safety, there is security,” she said. “If it’s not at your home then there are people that can deal with this.”
If you or someone you know has fallen victim to sex trafficking, there are people who can help you.
You can call police or the FBI anytime.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children will provide help at 1-800-THE-LOSE.
National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (888) 373-7888
20651 West Warren Street
Dearborn Heights, MI 48127
Main Line: 313-271-3050
Toll Free: 800-7-VISTA-6