A multi-agency human trafficking investigation in Southern California has led to the recovery of 33 missing children, the FBI has announced.
At least eight of the children had been sexually exploited, authorities said.
The FBI has seen a spike in human trafficking-related crimes in recent years, with the bureau reporting more than 1,800 pending investigations as of November 2020.
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More than two dozen law enforcement agencies and non-governmental agencies participated in “Operation Lost Angels,” which began January 11 as part of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“The FBI considers human trafficking modern-day slavery, and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims,” Assistant FBI Director Kristi K. Johnson said, according to FOX 11 Los Angeles.
“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.”
Several of the children returned to commercial sex trafficking after they were located by authorities, either voluntarily or no coercion, requiring authorities to make several interventions.
The operation resulted in the arrest on state charges of one suspected human trafficker and the opening of multiple investigations.
Not all of the children were the victims of severe circumstances, with one child the victim of a non custodial parental kidnapping, the FBI said.
In 2020, the FBI initiated 664 human trafficking investigations nationwide, making 473 arrests.
This article originally appeared on Fox News and is reproduced here with permission.