Operation Cross Country gets children forced into prostitution off the streets, puts pimps in jail

Exclusive access to the operation

CLEVELAND - FBI agents have rescued more than two dozen local children sold as prostitutes and thrown the men selling them in jail.

The 8th Operation Cross Country is the most successful of the operations that the FBI has done so far. And Cleveland is the second in the nation for recovering the most children in the human trafficking operation.

NewsChannel5 was given exclusive access to the FBI Cleveland Violent Crimes Task Force that works to save the children forced into the world of prostitution.

“The goal is to hit the streets and recover as many children as we can,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Tim Kolonick.

Operation Cross Country VIII started Sunday, June 15. The FBI and its local, state and federal law enforcement partners took part in the operation. It led to the recovery of 16 children who were being victimized through prostitution. Twelve pimps were arrested on state and federal charges.

“The success of this operation in Northern Ohio areas is unprecedented. Selling children for sex is a heinous crime and will not be tolerated,” said Stephen Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Cleveland Division of the FBI.

Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative that was established in 2003 by the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to address the growing problem of child prostitution.  

This week, law enforcement recovered four juveniles in Toledo, one in Elyria and 11 in Cleveland. All of these children were sold as prostitutes. The Cleveland office ranked second in the nation with the number of children recovered in this operation. The Denver Office of the FBI recovered 18 children.

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