FBI recovers nearly 30 metro Atlanta child sex trafficking victims

A national sex trafficking crackdown saved 80 children, including 28 in metro Atlanta
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 5:31 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - More than 80 children are safe after a national FBI crackdown on child sex trafficking. Nearly a third of the victims were recovered in metro Atlanta.

The multi-state investigation dubbed ‘Operation Cross Country’ took place over the course of two weeks in early August. More some 200 victims were recovered, 84 of which were children. Locally, metro Atlanta authorities recovered nearly 30 child victims. Investigators say many of the victims were targeted online.

“It’s important to have conversations. To engage with your child. To let them know that this type of activity does exist. And they could potentially be targeted,” said Keri Farley, a Special Agent with FBI Atlanta.

The FBI says the victims locally ranged in age from 14 to 17 years old. Nationally, the youngest victim was 11.

Wellspring Living is a local non-profit on the frontlines of helping sex trafficking victims. They say it’s no surprise a third of the victims recovered are from metro Atlanta.

“People who have expendable income because it is a business. So, pimps know they can actually make a lot of money in Atlanta. So, they are out doing their business,” said Mary Frances Bowley, executive director of Wellspring Living.

The FBI says they identified or arrested 85 suspects on child sexual exploitation and human trafficking offenses. Four of them were located in metro Atlanta.

Wellspring Living says sex trafficking is happening all around us, often in plain sight. They say it’s important that parents and teachers talk to teens and ask them questions.

“I think the big piece to noticing is for teachers to ask questions. If their schoolwork is falling behind or even if it’s your child, whose schoolwork is falling behind. Maybe something is going on,” said Bowley.

The FBI says many of the child victims were targeted online through messaging and dating apps. Experts say it’s important that parents monitor what their kids are doing online. A Google search lists several applications parents can download that can help them see what their kids are doing online.

Net Nanny lets parents manage their kids’ screen time, block certain apps and websites, and filter online content. Others include Qustodio, MamaBear, OurPact and Kaspersky Safe Kids.

“I urge every parent to understand what their children are doing online. There are lots of applications that can help you be aware of your children’s online activities,” said Farley.