By Scott Bolthouse
The Huron Township Police Department, along with the FBI and multiple other southeast Michigan law enforcement agencies, recently joined forces under a special initiative to help recover juveniles who were being trafficked as prostitutes across the U.S. and overseas.
The results of the nationwide initiative, called Operation Cross Country X, were announced Wednesday by David P. Gelios, special agent in charge of the Detroit Division of Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The operation took place between Oct. 13-15, Gelios said.
According to Gelios, the FBI’s Southeast Michigan Trafficking and Exploitation Crimes (SEMTEC) task force and members of the Macomb County Child Exploitation task force conducted undercover operations in the greater Detroit metropolitan area in an effort to recover juveniles and human trafficking victims.
Local police departments involved in the operation include the Detroit Police, Canton, Romulus, Huron Township, Roseville, Southfield, Livonia, Dearborn, Highland Park, Michigan State Police, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations.
“Our agency is a proud partner of the FBI and their efforts to eradicate the exploitation of children through our involvement with the SEMTEC task force and further our participation in Operation Cross Country X,” said Everette Robbins, Huron Township director of public safety.
“As one of the nation’s preeminent task forces focused on human trafficking matters, it is clear each participating department is dedicated to mission and to the victims of these heinous crimes. I am further grateful to many of the community groups and service providers which have aided in our fight and been there to meet so many of the needs of the children who have been taken advantage of.”
Robbins, along with Detective Sterling Price, are the two team members on the task force from the Huron Police Department.
The results of the three-day long operation included the recovery of six child victims of juvenile sex trafficking and the arrest of 10 traffickers and their associates. In addition, 46 adults involved in prostitution were temporarily placed into custody.
Service providers, lead by the Salvation Army, were on hand to offer a variety of services within the community, such as job training, housing, counseling, and medical and education assistance. Additionally, members from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services aided in the needs and placement of all of the child victims recovered during the operation.
FBI Director James Comey, along with law enforcement partners, announces the results of Operation Cross Country X at a press conference in San Diego, California on October 17, 2016. Photo/FBI.gov.
“The success of OCCX in Michigan is due to the local, state and federal partners who share the same passionate commitment to disrupt and prevent the sexual exploitation of children and adults,” said Gelios in a statement.
“While the recovery of juvenile victims of this exploitation remains our priority, the FBI will continue to fight this battle and conduct these operations as long as anyone is being commercially trafficked and exploited,” he said.
The annual operation, according to FBI officials, is just one element of an ongoing national attempt to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
The challenge that law enforcement faces with this type of criminal activity is that the people involved take their victims and often travel throughout the U.S. to engage in prostitution, and do not typically live in the area where they are located by authorities.
“The Michigan State Police will continue to support the efforts to combat human trafficking and rescue victims from the manipulation and violence of suspects who take advantage of vulnerable children and adults in our community. Our department is committed to working with the SEMTEC Task Force and our law enforcement partners enforcing human trafficking laws and arresting the suspects who commit these horrific acts,” said Michigan State Police Captain Monica Yesh.
In Detroit, an FBI agent takes a suspected pimp into custody. Photo/FBI.gov.
Operation Cross Country, according to officials, was a success in southeast Michigan because of the dedication of state, local law enforcement, and victim service specialists.
The operation is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which began in 2003 and has resulted in the identification and recovery of more than 6,000 children from child sex trafficking, and has resulted in lengthy prison sentences being handed down to defendants who have exploited children.
“Operation Cross Country aims to shine a spotlight into the darkest corners of our society that seeks to prey on the most vulnerable of our population,” said FBI Director James Comey.
Video of Operation Cross Country X, courtesy of FBI.gov: