FBI's Operation Cross Country nets 84 sex trafficking victims

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A video shot in Denver shows an FBI agent trying to convince a teen girl she does not have to continue a life as a human trafficking victim.

"So if you want to stop all this, stop all this work, you can call this number," she tells the girl.

Denver is where the youngest victims of Operation Cross Country were found: one child, just three months old, the other, age five, both victims of sex trafficking.

"It's a nationwide problem," says Angel Castillo.

He's a special supervisory special agent with the FBI's Birmingham office, where agents took in one young woman who had just turned 18 a few days before the operation.

"That wasn't her first time being involved in the sex trade so she'd been trafficked before and was ongoing from when she was a minor," Castillo says.

So why so few rescues?

Many times, Castillo says the traffickers know officials are looking for them, so they'll move them around on a circuit.

"So they don't stay here, but move them to say Memphis, Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas and keep moving them around and that makes it hard for law enforcement. By the time you get to them, they're somewhere else," Castillo says.

Even when agents may find them and try to offer help, it's hard because many victims have been brainwashed into thinking police are the enemy, just out to put them in jail.

"They're initial response is not to cooperate, to be quiet and not trust law enforcement. So we go out of our way to show them we're there to help them and to provide services to them," Castillo says.

Nationwide, 120 traffickers were arrested, including one in Birmingham.

Castillo stresses trafficking victims can be of any race or social standing.

He says the average age of underage victims is 15 or 16.

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