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FBI operation recovers juvenile human trafficking victims in Detroit

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A federal human trafficking operation led to the recovery of nine children in Detroit. The FBI's Operation Independence Day recovered victims of child sex trafficking and arrested traffickers.

It was a national operation throughout July. The FBI partnered with the Department of Justice and National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

In a press release from the FBI, they say "the initiative relied on more than 400 law enforcement agencies working on FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces in each of the Bureau’s 56 field offices. The sweep included undercover operations and has led to the opening of five dozen federal criminal investigations."

During the operation, Detroit had the third highest number of recovered victims nationwide. Las Vegas had 14 juvenile recoveries and identifications, and Dallas had 13.

Michael Glennon is an agent with the Detroit division of the FBI. He says that ranking says more about the efforts of law enforcement than the prevalence of human trafficking in Detroit.

"Though there is a lot of trafficking that occurs, I think the high numbers are often a derivative of just the hard work that many of the law enforcement officials as well as we have an amazing intelligence group," Glennon says.

Glennon says a number of factors influence the ranking a city has for sex trafficking prevelence.

"Often times we have a very aggressive investigative entity, as well as many of the prosecutors and federal prosecutors are very aggressive as well. So, our numbers are often times, from an annual basis, among probably the first or second within the nation. And so oftentimes that can be misconstrued to say, ok, well there's a huge problem here [Detroit] or it is the highest occurrence, but that’s just not proportionate," Glennon added. "We take in a number of different factors. Mainly, how many individuals are advertising within the area. So when you take those demographics and cross pollinate that with the population sizes, Detroit often is anywhere between eight and twelve as far as ranking in the nation, with regard to juvenile sex trafficking and commercial sex trafficking." 

Glennon says the nine victims were all from Michigan. He says, "We do take a very victim-centric approach in how we handle our investigation. Making sure first and foremost, albeit it's a child or an adult, that their needs are taken care of and we get them the help that they need."

The operation recovered more than 100 minors and lead to dozens of arrests across the country.

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