KENT COUNTY, Mich. (WOOD) –- An undercover operation in West Michigan is being credited for the arrests of eight pimps and the rescue of an underage victim of human trafficking.
The FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force worked with 13 West Michigan law enforcement groups to pull off the last weekend’s crackdown on human trafficking, dubbed Operation Cross Country X. Participating agencies included:
- Grand Rapids Police Department
- Wyoming Department of Public Safety
- Michigan State Police
- Kent County Prosecutor’s Office
- Kent County Sheriff’s Office
- Kentwood Police Department
- Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office
- Ionia County Sheriff’s Office
- Allegan County Sheriff’s Office
- Homeland Security Investigations
- U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Michigan
- State of Michigan Children Protective Services
- The Kent County Children’s Assessment Center
“The lead on this project is the FBI and they’re coordinating a nationwide surge to make sure we’re vigilant about human trafficking,” said Kent County Undersheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young. “It happens in West Michigan just like it happens anywhere else in the U.S. I can’t say we have a pressing issue compared to other communities, but it is a nationwide issue.”
The results from Operation Cross Country X prove human trafficking is more prevalent than many people think. Authorities recovered 82 sexually exploited juveniles and arrested 239 pimps nationwide in a matter of 72 hours.
Those numbers include the Detroit area, where 10 traffickers were arrested and six victimized children were recovered.
“It’s imperative to coordinate with other agencies for so many reasons. One agency doesn’t have the resources to put the effort into a sting operation like this. Consistency and trying to track investigations throughout multiple communities, it’s why the FBI is involved with it and it’s a very effective way to handle it,” LaJoye-Young explained.
The FBI and other law enforcement will continue planning and executing stings, but they also need the public’s help in reporting possible trafficking. Law enforcement asks people to report suspicious activity to police if you believe trafficking is happening in your community.