8 victims rescued in human trafficking raids in Missouri

Demonstrators in Keene, New Hampshire, gather at a "Save the Children Rally" to protest child sex trafficking and pedophilia around the world, on September 19, 2020. | AFP via Getty Images/Joseph Prezioso

A Missouri anti-trafficking operation led to the rescue of six adults and two children as part of ongoing efforts to combat the scourge nationwide. 

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said that in coordination with several state and federal agencies, law enforcement conducted a successful operation at two truck stops in St. Joseph, which resulted in three arrests and eight victims being rescued. Two of the victims were children, a 2-year-old and an infant, he said in a press release on Saturday. 

“This operation was successful because of cooperation between my office, the St. Joseph Police Department, the state highway patrol, the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office, and 13 other agencies and departments. This unprecedented success should send a clear message to traffickers: you are not welcome in Missouri, and you can’t hide any longer,” Schmitt said in a statement.

Sixteen different agencies participated in the effort, including: the St. Joseph Police Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Attorney General’s Office, Kansas City Police Department, Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals, Department of Corrections, Probation and Parole, State Parks, and others, the statement noted. 

A similar anti-trafficking operation in the Midwestern state took place in October 2020, in which 10 women and three children younger than 5 were rescued. Five arrests were made in the investigation surrounding that rescue.

According to The Epoch Times, the ongoing effort has been part of a larger project called the Hope Initiative, a state operation to combat trafficking, an initiative the attorney general’s office says aims to reduce the number of illicit massage businesses, which are known as hotspots for trafficking.

Since its October launch, 16 massage parlors were shuttered in December and 16 more evictions of similar businesses are pending, The Epoch Times reported.

Twenty-five million people worldwide are ensnared in some form of human trafficking, according to 2018 data from the Walk Free Foundation.

The latest development comes on the heels of several operations in recent months that the U.S. Marshals, in coordination with other agencies, carried out across several states where dozens of missing children were rescued, many of whom had been trapped in trafficking. 

In October, the Department of Justice announced that a five-day effort called “Operation Find Our Children" was completed throughout the commonwealth of Virginia, which led to the recovery of 27 children. 

In August 2020, 25 children who ranged in age from 13 to 18, a few of whom were trafficking victims, were recovered in Ohio in a similar effort called “Operation Safety Net.” Also in August, 39 children were rescued in Georgia as part of “Operation Not Forgotten” while several individuals in connection with their disappearance were arrested, including some who were sex offenders. 

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