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38 Colorado children recovered during nationwide human trafficking operation

38 Colorado children recovered during nationwide human trafficking operation
38 Colorado children recovered during nationwide human trafficking operation 02:23

Dozens of children in Colorado were recovered with the help of numerous Front Range law enforcement agencies and organizations during a nationwide sex trafficking operation.


Tuesday afternoon, FBI Denver announced the results of Operation Cross Country – which occurred August 4-6 across the state. The FBI's Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force joined with nearly 40 agencies to identify, locate and recover child victims and arrest individuals involved in sex trafficking.

During this year's operation, 11 child victims of sexual exploitation were recovered along with 27 missing or endangered children. Eleven adult victims were also recovered. One of the children was only three months old, most should be in a middle school classroom.

"The average age of the children recovered was 13 years old," said District Attorney John Kellner. "Eleven kids – six boys, five girls – that should've been in 7th grade."


Investigators say traffickers prey on kids, even young adults, using social media. They lure them into a life that may appear better than what they have.

"Most of these kids come from challenging backgrounds, and the traffickers are able to take advantage of the vulnerabilities of these victims," Michael Schneider, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Denver, said.

Beyond sexual exploitation, many of the victims are also involved drug abuse. Investigators shared they found a runaway teen outside a store in Boulder and she had just ingested fentanyl. Authorities were able to call for an ambulance and administer Narcan, saving the young girl's life. The illicit drug use adds to the urgency to rescue the victims and connect them with resources to rebuild a healthy life.

"More often than not, they go back to their trafficker 5 to 7 times, sometimes more," said Jenelle Goodrich, founder of From Silenced to Saved, an organization helping victims of sexual exploitation. "It's our job to make sure we intrude on every aspect of their life -- like family, school, the Department of Human Services – to make sure every aspect is wrapped around them to be trauma informed to get them services."


Yet it also takes a community to protect children. That's why law enforcement is urging everyone, especially parents, to pay close attention.

"They're going for everybody, anybody they can victimize," said Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown. "Pay attention to what your children are doing. Pay attention to their social media platforms."

FBI Denver said six traffickers were identified during Operation Cross Country. Two were arrested on unrelated felony warrants. 

If you suspect child sex trafficking in Colorado, you can call 844-CO-4-Kids.

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