DENVER – An FBI task force recovered nine children and arrested several alleged sex traffickers in Colorado and Wyoming in a sting that took place late last week.
The sweep was part of a nationwide operation that happens each year to bust sex trafficking rings known as Operation Cross Country.
The FBI Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force, which includes many Colorado law enforcement agencies, announced Tuesday morning it arrested 11 alleged pimps and 32 customers in addition to the rescue of the nine children.
Agents spent Oct. 13-15 working hotels, truck stops, street corners and social media apps to round up the alleged traffickers.
The task force said it noticed an increase in the use of online and app-based dating and hook-up sites to facilitate the alleged prostitution.
“We have to do a better job of getting out in front of this,” said Denver Police Department Sgt. Dan Steele, who worked on the task force and noted parents need to better-monitor their children’s social media and app usage.
The task force said the youngest trafficking victim it recovered was 14 years old. It said the Colorado and Wyoming operation ranked second in the country in terms of the number of children recovered this year – 11 children were recovered in a sting in Milwaukee.
Last year, the Rock Mountain task force recovered 20 children out of 149 nationwide in the annual sweep.
The FBI estimates up to 2,000 underage children are sexually exploited every year. Thirty-eight law enforcement agencies and district attorney’s offices from across Colorado and Wyoming participated in the task force.