NEW ORLEANS -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the results of its annual, nationwide sex trafficking sting Monday, which included the arrests of 17 adult prostitutes and the rescue of one juvenile in the New Orleans area.
The New Orleans field office first got heavily involved in Operation Cross Country in 2003, according to the Deputy Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Division John Selleck.
This year's busts turned out to be the most lucrative, Selleck said, with the recovery of three juveniles, 16 pimps and 75 adult prostitutes statewide.
Using forums and chat rooms, FBI agents spent weeks leading up to the operation arranging meetings between those illegally selling sex and undercover agents. Over the past week, investigators with the FBI and local law enforcement agencies worked to round up the arrestees.
According to Selleck, the human trafficking aspect of the investigations simply begins with the arrests. More work needed to be done Monday to try and identify those sex workers who were actually victims of sex trafficking.
The arrests made in the New Orleans area were all referred to the New Orleans Police Department and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, according to a local FBI spokeswoman.
Our requests for arrest information from those local agencies had not been released by the time of publication. Most of the arrests would ultimately be referred for state and local prosecution, with the federal system focusing on crimes associated with juvenile sex trafficking and the larger human trafficking networks.
The FBI both in at headquarters in Washington Monday and in New Orleans emphasized the desire to connect the juvenile victims of sex trafficking with social services to keep them out of harm's way.
'While the investigative and prosecutive assets dedicated to this operation by the FBI and its partners has been immense, the public should also be aware that we offer a wide range of victim assistance resources, as well, in support of our year round efforts to address these repugnant crimes,' said Michael Anderson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI New Orleans in a press release issued Monday. 'These resources include such necessities as food, clothing, shelter, counseling, legal services and medical attention.'
The sting netted the largest number of arrests in Louisiana in Shreveport, with 10 pimps and 23 adult prostitutes arrested. Agents also rescued one juvenile.
Nationwide, Operation Cross Country VIII gave agents access to 167 juvenile victims and led to the arrests of 260 pimps in 37 states.