33 missing kids recovered in joint Los Angeles-based operation combatting human trafficking

Nearly three-dozen missing children have been recovered in Southern California during a recent Los Angeles-based operation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced Friday.

During January, which is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the FBI worked with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and more than two-dozen law enforcement and non-governmental partners to identify, locate and recover missing children, particularly those who have been or were suspected of being sexually exploited and/or trafficked.

The agencies recovered 33 children throughout the course of the operation, according to Kristi K. Johnson, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office.

"Human trafficking is a pervasive and insidious crime that threatens the safety of our young people, who are the future of our communities," said Michel Moore, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. "We can only begin to take back the future of our youth with the strong partnerships forged between outstanding service providers and law enforcement."

Specific details about the operation, nicknamed "Los Angels," were not immediately available.

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Of the 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 term commonly used to describe a known location for commercial sex trafficking, Johnson said.

Several of the victims 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, and one child was a victim of a non-custodial parental kidnapping, according to the FBI.

The FBI caseload for both sex and labor trafficking-related crimes has increased significantly in the past several years. As of November, there were more than 1,800 pending trafficking investigations including those involving minors exploited through commercial sex trafficking, according to the agency.

"The FBI considers human trafficking modern day slavery and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims," said Assistant Director Johnson. "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."

Anyone who believes they may be victims of human trafficking may call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (NHTRC) at 888-373-7888 or visit https://humantraffickinghotline.org/. 

CNS contributed to this report.