A massive operation involving multiple law enforcement agencies resulted in the recovery of nearly three dozen missing children, including several who had been sexually exploited, authorities said.
One person suspected of human trafficking was arrested on state charges, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Friday in a press release. Details of the arrest were not immediately available.
“Operation Lost Angels” began on Jan. 11 during Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The FBI said 33 children were rescued, including eight who were being sexually exploited at the time of recovery.
Several of the other victims had been sexually exploited in the past and were “considered vulnerable missing children,” according to authorities. Two of the victims had been recovered multiple times while at a location known for commercial sex trafficking.
The FBI said it’s not uncommon for victims to return on their own or by force or threats.
“This harmful cycle highlights the challenges victims face and those faced by law enforcement when attempting to keep victims from returning to an abusive situation,” the FBI said. “Victims may not self-identify as being trafficked or may not even realize they’re being trafficked.”
Some of the victims were arrested for misdemeanor crimes such as violating probation or robbery, authorities said. One child was discovered to be the victim of a noncustodial parental kidnapping.
Additional details about the victims were not released and the FBI could not be reached on Saturday.
Federal investigators worked with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and two dozen other law enforcement agencies.
Agencies in other states also assisted including the Wichita Police Department in Kansas, the Langston University Police in Oklahoma and the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
“Human trafficking is a pervasive and insidious crime that threatens the safety of our young people, who are the future of our communities,” said Michel Moore, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. “We can only begin to take back the future of our youth with the strong partnerships forged between outstanding service providers and law enforcement.”