A multi-agency anti-human trafficking operation led by the FBI rescued 33 missing children in southern California. The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the news about the investigation on Friday in a press release.
Operation Lost Angels launched on Jan. 11 and found 33 "vulnerable missing children," eight of which were said to be being sexually exploited or trafficked when law enforcement saved them, according to the feds.
"Two were recovered multiple times during the operation while on the 'track,' a common term used to describe a known location for commercial sex trafficking," the FBI said. "It is not uncommon for victims who are rescued to return to commercial sex trafficking either voluntarily or by force, fraud, or coercion."
"This harmful cycle highlights the challenges victims face and those faced by law enforcement when attempting to keep victims from returning to an abusive situation," the news release stated. "Victims may not self-identify as being trafficked or may not even realize they're being trafficked."
The operation resulted in the arrest of a suspected human trafficker on state charges. One of the minors had been unlawfully kidnapped by a parent.
"The FBI considers human trafficking modern day slavery and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims," FBI assistant director Kristi K. Johnson said. "While this operation surged resources over a limited period of time with great success, the FBI and our partners investigate child sex trafficking every day of the year and around the clock."
In 2020, the FBI conducted 664 human trafficking investigations across the country, which resulted in the arrests of 473 human traffickers.
Operation Lost Angels, which was executed during Human Trafficking Awareness Month, involved more than two dozen law enforcement departments, including the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, San Diego Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and the United States Marshal's Service.
The U.S. Marshals have been involved in numerous successful operations to find missing children in the past year.
In November, the U.S. Marshals rescued 27 missing children in Virginia during "Operation Find Our Children."
In October, the Marshals announced the recovery of 45 missing and endangered children in Ohio and West Virginia during "Operation Autumn Hope." The operation led to 179 arrests that were made by the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force.
On Oct. 1, the Marshals Service announced they rescued 11 children in New Orleans, two of which were said to be in "extreme danger."
On Sept. 21, U.S. Marshals rescued 35 missing children during "Operation Safety Net" in Ohio.
On Sept. 17, U.S. Marshals Service executed "Operation Triple Beam," a 60-day mission to decrease violent gang crime in Oklahoma City. U.S. Marshals made 262 arrests, seized illegal firearms and narcotics, as well as located five missing children.
On Sept. 4, Marshals declared that they had rescued eight "highly endangered" missing children in Indiana during "Operation Homecoming."
On Aug. 27, "Operation Not Forgotten" resulted in the discovery of 39 missing children in Georgia and Florida. Authorities said the children were between the ages of 3 to 17. Of the 39 endangered children, 15 were victims of sex trafficking.