Sheriff’s office, FBI work together for local sting

Published 10:38 am Thursday, October 15, 2015

JACKSON — The Federal Bureau of Investigations along with multiple law enforcement agencies in Mississippi held a press conference Wednesday in Jackson to announce a 48-hour operation called Operation Cross Country that was conducted last week in central Mississippi as a part of a national effort to crackdown on child sex trafficking.

“This is the FBI’s outreach to state and local law enforcement to locate, identify and rescue juveniles that may be trafficked for prostitution,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said.

Twenty-two adults were arrested and two 17-year-olds were discovered in central Mississippi during the operation. Five of those adults were arrested in Warren County, but no juveniles were found locally during the sweep.

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“Our hopes are that these girls can get off the street and this information will aid in locating juveniles that are potentially caught up in the same business,” Pace said.

The five arrested in Warren County were between the ages of 23 and 36, three were from Jackson, one from New Orleans and one from Vicksburg.

One of those arrested in Warren County who was from the Jackson area was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia while she and the other four were charged with prostitution.

Charges on the 22 individuals in central Mississippi ranged from prostitution to possession of firearm and narcotics. In addition, there was one report of child endangerment in Jackson because the 3-year-old child’s parents brought him with them.

All of the individuals arrested locally were found and contacted through Internet advertisements by undercover Warren County sheriff’s officers. After a telephone conversation, the individuals planned a meeting with who they thought were potential customers but instead were met by multiple law enforcement officers.

None of those who were pandering the individuals were arrested in Warren County but significant information was obtained by deputies in post arrest interviews, which was passed to other law enforcement agencies.

“Information was passed along to other agencies that we had partnered with in an attempt to further the investigation to identify and locate those that are pandering these girls in these other jurisdictions,” Pace said.

Pace said that no community is immune to sex trafficking because the Internet makes prostitution accessible. Some may think of it is only a problem in metropolitan areas but it can be found anywhere.

“The Internet and social media have brought a completely new dimension to a very old business,” Pace said.

Clinton, Ridgeland, Madison and Jackson police departments as well as Madison and Warren County sheriff’s departments partnered with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics for the operation. Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative.

“This was an excellent example of agencies working together for a common goal,” Pace said.

Pace said Warren County has had an excellent longstanding working relationship with state and federal partners including the FBI, but this is the first time they have been approached to collaborate on this particular nationwide effort.

Operation Cross Country is a once a year nationwide look into trafficking but individual local operation efforts will continue.