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Law Enforcement Recover Underage Girl ln Utah As Part Of National Sex Trafficking Sting

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Nicole Nixon
Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart speaks at a press conference at FBI offices in Salt Lake City, Oct. 18, 2016

Over the weekend the FBI conducted a nationwide operation to recover victims of sex trafficking. One underage girl was rescued in Utah.

Operation Cross Country is an annual campaign by the FBI to recover underage victims of prostitution. Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart oversaw it in Utah this year.

“It was a nationwide operation involving 55 of our field offices and 400 law enforcement agencies,” says Barnhart. “Including operations in Canada, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines”

Several law enforcement agencies in Utah participated and were able to recover one underage girl who they say was being trafficked for sex. Barnhart could not disclose much about the minor but says she is not from Utah and will be reunited with her family out of state. He says several other women were also arrested or cited for prostitution.

“People will say, ‘That could never touch me, or that could never touch my neighborhood or my family,’ and that’s just not true,” he says. “These could be anyone’s daughters, anyone’s nieces. We see these victims, they come from all areas, all socioeconomic incomes, race, ethnicities, and through a series of tragic events have found themselves in this.”

Eighty-two underage victims were recovered and more than 200 traffickers were arrested in the U.S. during the three-day operation that ended on Sunday. Special Agent Barnhart says in the last five years or so, his office has made 24 arrests for child sex trafficking in Utah.

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