June 5, 2023

In the FBI’s latest crackdown on human trafficking within the United States, 105 children were rescued and more than 150 procurers arrested. Operation Cross Country took place over the course of three days in late July in 76 cities across the country.

In 2003, the FBI launched the Innocence Lost National Initiative, aiming “at addressing the growing problem of domestic sex trafficking of children in the United States,” according to the bureau’s website.

Operation Cross Country has led six other operations in the past with the July operation being the largest. The Innocence Lost National Initiative has led to the rescue of more than 2,700 children in the past 10 years.

Amy Alvarez, senior political science major, works with the International Justice Mission as a regional vice president for the national student leadership team. IJM is a human rights agency that works against cases of injustice throughout the world.

“Human trafficking is a huge problem in the U.S.,” Alvarez said. “Oftentimes, though, it doesn’t receive the attention it deserves because it is easy to miss, or we choose to look right past it. It’s all around us in our communities.”

Opal Singleton serves on the Riverside County Sheriff’s Anti-Trafficking Task Force and is the director of development for Million Kids, a Riverside-based organization that works to stop trafficking locally and overseas.

“I believe that human trafficking for the most part is a crime of psychology,” she said. “That means that education is the key. So, for me, it’s about prevention.”

As part of the task force, Singleton works with local FBI agents. When a suspect crosses city and county lines, her department along with others becomes limited and the FBI steps in.

“They help us bridge all these gaps because they can go anywhere,” she  said.

Singleton works to educate schools and churches on the topic of human trafficking. She also trains bus drivers at local RTA offices in the Riverside area how to spot runaways who are at risk of being trafficked.

With the government and people paying more attention, Alvarez hopes the perpetrators will take a hint and stop.

“Now, as law enforcement officials are receiving training on how to spot trafficking and joint efforts between government agencies are taking place, the bad guys will be and are running scared,” she said.

According to the FBI, its efforts over the past decade have led to the investigations and convictions of 1,350 individuals with 10 of those soliciters of prostitution given life sentences.

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