FBI-led operation nets arrests of 239 child-sex traffickers, 44 in Philly area and NJ

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An FBI agent takes into custody a suspected pimp in Detroit.

More than 200 child-sex traffickers and their associates were arrested and dozens of children were rescued across the country in a major FBI-led initiative to combat underage human trafficking.

In all, 239 traffickers and their associates were arrested and 82 children were rescued from Oct. 13 to 16 as part of Operation Cross Country X, an international effort that focused on underage human trafficking, the FBI announced Tuesday.  

The FBI’s Philadelphia Division said that 15 pimps and associates were arrested in the area as part of the takedown, which included participation from the Philadelphia Police Department, suburban police departments and prosecutors' offices and the Pennsylvania State Police.

In New Jersey, the FBI's Newark field office announced that one 17-year-old child was rescued and 29 prostitutes and pimps were arrested in the operation.

Operations took place in hotels, truck stops, street corners, and other locations. Children who were rescued have been put in contact with state child-welfare agencies and victim-assistance groups, the FBI said.

This was the 10th iteration of Operation Cross Country. For the first time, the operation this year also took place in several other countries with law-enforcement partners from Cambodia, Canada, the Philippines, and Thailand.

In Canada, as part of a corresponding effort called Northern Spotlight, authorities rescued 16 children, while in Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines, authorities rescued 25 children, including a 2-year-old girl, the FBI said.

“Operation Cross Country aims to shine a spotlight into the darkest corners of our society that seeks to prey on the most vulnerable of our population,” FBI Director James Comey said in a news release. 

John Clark, director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said in the release that his organization has been "proud to work side by side with the FBI and their law enforcement partners as we work tirelessly every day to find and rescue child victims."

Anyone who is a victim of child sex trafficking or has knowledge of any such crimes is asked to call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or go online to tips.fbi.gov.