LUMBERTON — No arrests were made in Robeson County as the result of a recently concluded nationwide FBI investigation focusing on underage human trafficking, according to local and federal law enforcement officials.
The Lumberton Police Department and the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office participated in Operation Cross Country XI, according to Lumberton police Capt. Terry Parker. However, an agreement between the local law enforcement agencies and the FBI stipulates all information regarding the investigation must come from the FBI.
When asked, Shelley Lynch, public information officer for the FBI’s Charlotte office, would not supply more information about local involvement in the investigation that ran Oct. 12 through Oct. 17.
Thirteen law enforcement agencies in North Carolina conducted operations in Charlotte, Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Lumberton, according to information from the FBI. Eleven people were arrested and three minor victims were recovered or were offered assistance from the FBI’s Office of Victim Assistance, U.S. Attorney’s Victim Assistance, and other non-governmental organizations.
Participating in Operation Cross County XI operations in North Carolina were the FBI, Department of Homeland Security Investigations, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office, Gastonia Police Department, North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Raleigh Police Department, Fayetteville Police Department, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and United States Marshals Service.
As a result of the investigation, 84 minors were recovered and 120 traffickers were arrested, according to FBI information. The investigation took place in 55 FBI field offices and involved 78 state and local task forces consisting of hundreds of law enforcement officers, intelligence analysts, and victim assistance specialists.
“We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm. Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested, and the number of children recovered, reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said during an Oct. 18 news conference. “This operation isn’t just about taking traffickers off the street. It’s about making sure we offer help and a way out to these young victims who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of abuse.”
As part of Operation Cross Country XI, federal and local law enforcement personnel staged operations in hotels, casinos, truck stops, on Internet websites, and street corners. The youngest victim recovered during the operation was 3 months old. The average age of victims recovered during the operation was 15.
The operation was part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which began in 2003 and has yielded more than 6,500 child identifications and locations, according to the FBI. For additional information on Operation Cross Country XI and the Innocence Lost initiative,visit www.fbi.gov.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children joined the FBI in announcing the operation and its results.