DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - A nationwide sting dubbed “Operation Independence Day” just wrapped up. The mission’s purpose was to identify and rescue as many victims of child sex trafficking as possible during the month of July.
More than 400 agencies nationwide participated. Locally, there are eight police or sheriff’s departments that were involved.
This July, thousands of officers prepared themselves for Operation Independence Day. Detective Michael Johnson with the Dekalb County Police Department explains why the sting was performed.
“The objective of the operation is to identify potential victims, underage females or males who are forced into sexually explicit activities," Johnson said.
FBI Special Agent Jeanette Milazzo says officers were on the street and behind computer screens to execute the sting.
“We have undercover officers here who are helping us out on undercover social media sites and escort sites, looking for runaways, and essentially juveniles who have been posting themselves for commercial sex,” Milazzo said.
She goes on to explain how this particular sting works.
“They will make a fake date with them, wherein they’ll be intercepted at a pre-determined location and brought back to this location where they will be interviewed and then provided services if they request, then transported to the hospital for forensic examination,” Milazzo said.
Nationwide, the stings identified and recovered 103 child victims and lead to the arrest of 67 sex traffickers. In Georgia, seven child victims were rescued, four adult victims were recovered, and three sex traffickers were arrested. Once rescued, FBI Victim Specialist Anne Dan says the victims get help.
“It’s important that we intervene and that we provide really good education, awareness and resources to them so that way they don’t go back online and meet someone who could be an online predator,” Dan said.
The following local agencies participated in Operation Independence Day:
- Chatham County Sheriff’s Office
- Effingham County Sheriff’s Office
- Hinesville Police Dept.
- Liberty County Sheriff’s Office
- Long County Sheriff’s Office
- Pooler Police Dept.
- Savannah Police Dept.
- Wayne County Sheriff’s Office
These offices and departments are known to partner with the FBI and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children throughout the year.