Seven missing and endangered minors and 13 minors who are victims of sex trafficking or exploitation are among those identified in a multi-agency human trafficking prevention effort conducted during The World Games in Birmingham.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations says 34 arrests were made for commercial sex buyers and six arrests for human trafficking during the World Games, which ended July 17.
Doug Gilmer, resident agent in charge for DHS Investigations, told WBHM news the number of victims and arrests was more than he expected.
“We felt like we were going to be busy. I just don’t think we anticipated just how busy we would be. It’s been taxing,” he said.
Among those identified in the operation were 15 adults and two minors that are sex trafficking victims; 11 minors that are victims of online sexual exploitation and sextortion; seven missing and endangered minors; and seven adults and four minors that are labor trafficking victims.
Some victims traveled from out of state specifically for the World Games, Gilmer said. Several were referred to local ministries that help trafficking victims.
The 4-week focused effort, dubbed “Operation Games STOP” (Strategic Trafficking Operation), began June 23 and targeted human exploitation-related offenses, drug trafficking and other public safety threats in the lead up to The World Games.
But DHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other groups have been preparing for the World Games for over three years, Gilmer said. Thousands of law enforcement officers, workers in the health care and hospitality industries, and community volunteers had been trained in the lead up to the World Games, he added. Volunteers for the World Games also received training ahead of their service.
Gilmer lamented the number of victims, but said the effort to identity and help them was “incredibly successful.”
Learn more about human trafficking and common myths and misconceptions here.
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