The Wisconsin Department of Justice announced Monday that Wisconsin officials participated in a large-scale, FBI-led child sex trafficking operation that rescued 10 children.
The operation is known nationwide as Operation Cross Country VII, and the three-day operation in Wisconsin was conducted in the areas of Milwaukee, Madison, Wisconsin Dells and the Fox Valley, according to the release.
Officials said 10 children were rescued and 100 suspects were arrested in Wisconsin as part of the operation.
"Throughout the last year or so we've received reports from around the country of trafficking emanating from the state of Wisconsin," said Steve Conley, special agent in charge with the Milwaukee FBI. "We took it upon ourselves to create this initiative over the last year to try and answer those questions. What's going on, why is Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin an apparent source for girls and women to be trafficked?"
According to the release, victims and the pimps travel throughout the state to work and do not necessarily reside in the area where they were located during OCC7.
The FBI said the victims, almost all girls, range in age from 13-17.
"Children rescued as a result of these types of operations are often vulnerable and have been misled with promises of food, shelter and a future, and oftentimes, love, only to be ensnared into a life of isolation, intimidation, violence and sex trafficking," Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in the release. "We know child sex trafficking occurs in Wisconsin, and with newly added resources, we want those looking to prostitute children to know that their organized crime won't be tolerated here."
The top recoveries of juveniles around the country were in San Francisco, where 12 children were rescued; Detroit and Milwaukee. where 10 were rescued in each city; Denver, where nine were rescued; New Haven and New Orleans, where six were rescued in each city; and San Diego, where five were rescued, according to the release.
"I think people will be very surprised when they see we have identified these juveniles and other adults who are engaging in this sort of behavior," said Jennifer Price, commander of the Wisconsin Department of Justice Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce.
The young people found locally were sent to Madison's Project Respect, an organization that will now help them move on.
"The first assessment is to make sure the children and young people are safe and that's where we're at," said Jan Miyasaki with Project Respect. "We mad sure that those who were adults got home and to a safe place and the children got taken to some kind of protective care. Now begins a much longer journey for these victims to heal from this kind of trauma."
The FBI is not saying specifically what crimes the arrests are for because the investigations are still in progress.
Officials said during last year's Operation Cross Country, six children were rescued and nearly 60 people were arrested in Wisconsin.
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