DENVER (KDVR) — FBI Denver announced its results from Operation Cross Country, a nationwide initiative to identify and recover child victims of sexual exploitation. A task force and nearly 40 agencies from across the Front Range participated locally.
During the three-day operation in the metro, 11 child victims of sexual exploitation were recovered, and six alleged traffickers were identified. The average age of the child victims was 13.
“Eleven kids, six boys, five girls, that should have been in seventh grade, instead are victims of commercial sex exploitation,” 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner said.
Two of the alleged traffickers were arrested for unrelated felony warrants. Law enforcement is still working on the cases against them but said they often prey on vulnerable minors including runaways, foster kids and victims of abuse.
“Frequently they will take advantage of social media to identify kids online. Many times they will just find kids in areas of our community. Most of these kids come from challenging backgrounds,” FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said.
In one case, a 3-month-old baby was recovered from a vehicle with an alleged trafficker. In another case, Narcan was administered to a girl who had just used fentanyl to save her life.
“So many of these victims are also involved in drug abuse and we need to make sure that we are getting them the resources necessary,” Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown said.
Now the kids will need resources to help them turn their lives around, and that can be a challenge.
“A lot of these kids have what we describe as a trauma bond with their traffickers,” Schneider said.
Statistically, many go back to that life. But groups like “From Silenced to Saved” go after them.
“If they go back in, then we show up again and we just keep going,” founder Jenelle Goodrich said.
In addition to those 11 child victims, 27 missing or endangered children were located and offered services. Eleven adult victims were also recovered.