FLORIDA (WMBB) — The FBI conducts human trafficking operations regularly throughout the year.
However their nationwide human trafficking sting operation, ‘Operation Cross Country’ is the most effective for tackling the problem on a large scale.
“Everywhere we do a dedicated two-week surge of resources to try to recover specifically minor victims of sex trafficking, at-risk minors, runaway minors, and then also adult victims of human trafficking,” FBI Jacksonville’s Special Agent CJ Goodman said.
Locally, Panama City and Panama City Beach Police Departments as well as the Bay and Walton County Sheriff’s Offices all took part in the effort.
They partnered with the FBI’s Jacksonville field office to cover North Florida.
They arrested three human trafficking suspects, identified 6 adult potential human trafficking victims, and contacted 46 other potential sex trafficking victims to undergo further investigation.
“This is something that the FBI works together with our partners and we frankly could not do it without,” Goodman said. “Not just with the law enforcement partners, but there are some amazing community groups out there that work hard towards specifically sex trafficking and try to bring resources to people.”
Human trafficking isn’t going to go away.
FBI Agent CJ Goodman said the best way to prevent it is to spread awareness.
“If you see children, minors any individuals under the age of 18 who are just on their own, make it a tip,” Goodman said. “Contact local law enforcement. At least say something so that we can make some contact with individuals who are out in our community who just would otherwise be taken advantage of if not for us to come in and say something and do something.”
Special Agent Goodman also suggested pointing those who lack resources toward a community group that might help them.
Altogether, law enforcement agencies conducted nearly 400 investigations in the 12th iteration of Operation Cross Country.
They located 84 minors, 37 missing children, and 141 adult victims.
The average age was 15.5 and the youngest child found was 11 years old.