FBI rescues 103 sex trafficking victims in Independence Day operation, includes 11 in Detroit

The Department of Justice announced on Tuesday that it had rescued or identified 103 child victims of sex trafficking, including nine children in Detroit and two adults.

The FBI led the initiative dubbed Operation Independence Day, which operated throughout the entire month of July. Sixty-seven sex traffickers were arrested in the operation. Video released by the FBI's Detroit field office shows the agents in action.

In Detroit alone, nine juveniles were recovered and identified, two adult victims were encountered and three pimps were arrested through three federal investigations. Detroit had the third highest number of juveniles recovered and identified in the country.

"We encountered about 50 individuals - of those - nine were children that were involved in the sex trade industry," said Michael Glennon, special agent, FBI Detroit. "We encountered three exploiters or pimps."

Several local law enforcement agencies participated in the operation which included Michigan State Police, Detroit Police Department, Romulus Police Department, Canton Police Department, Highland Park Police Department, Madison Heights Police Department, Huron Township Police Department, Livonia Police Department, Roseville Police Department, Southfield Police Department, and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office. 

"We were down in the Detroit Airport area, the Canton area, Romulus, up through Warren, Roseville, here in Southfield, Madison Heights," Glennon said.

The operation relied on multiple task forces throughout the country to rescue the victims, which includes 400 agencies across the country.

 “Child sex traffickers prey on the most vulnerable members of our society - young girls and boys. Through threats, violence and false promises, these traffickers compel their young victims to engage in sex acts for profit”, stated United States Attorney Matthew Schneider. “I commend the hard work and dedication of the FBI, as well as all the state and local law enforcement agencies who took part in this very important operation.  We are committed to rescuing victims and putting the perpetrators behind bars.” 

The operation made it a priority to locate and rescue missing minors who were at great risk for sexual exploitation and arrest the traffickers who exploit them.

"The sale of our children and unsuspecting victims as mere commodities by traffickers is unacceptable and remains one of the highest priorities with the Detroit Division of the FBI," FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Rainer S. Drolshagen said. “Partnerships established with local, state and federal entities through our Southeast Michigan Trafficking and Exploitation Crimes (SEMTEC) Task Force, it is evident that combating sex trafficking in our communities is of the highest priority and we are honored to be able to lead that charge.” 

Since 2008, there have been 11 cross country campaigns. In that time, the campaigns have rescued more than 900 child victims and arrested 1,400 traffickers.

Prior to July's operation, the last one was held in October 2017 with 78 task forces participating. At that point, the FBI determined it was time to re-evaluate and conduct the program over an entire month, rather than a few days, while still focusing on the recovery of child victims from commercial sex trafficking. 

Glennon had a word of advice for parents:

"Sometimes I tell parents your children are about a thousand times more at risk, simply sitting on their couch with a cellphone or tablet in their hands as they would, being out and about," he said. "That's because that is where many of the exploiters lurk, is on social media and through many of the platforms there."