6 adults, 2 children rescued in Missouri during joint human trafficking operation

Source: MSN News

Date: 2/19/2021

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (KRCG) — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt's new initiative cracking down on human trafficking in the state has yielded more results. 

Eight victims of human trafficking, including a two-year-old and an infant, were rescued in Missouri this month during a joint operation with 16 agencies including the FBI, U.S. Marshals, and the Attorney General's Office.  

Schmitt announced the joint operation's success saying it sends a "clear message" to human traffickers in Missouri. 

This unprecedented success should send clear a message to traffickers: you are not welcome in Missouri, and you can’t hide any longer.

Three people were arrested and an additional arrest was pending on Feb. 6, following the joint human trafficking operation.

Late in the evening of Feb. 5, the coalition of local, state, and federal agencies completed the human trafficking operation at two St. Joseph, Missouri truck stops: Bucky's and Love's Travel Stop.  

In addition to the arrests that were made, six adults and two children were rescued. The victims were offered victim services, including food, lodging, onsite medical services, counseling/therapy and drug rehabilitation.

“Last night, my Office’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, in coordination with multiple law enforcement agencies, conducted a successful human trafficking operation at two truck stops in St. Joseph, resulting in 6 victims and 2 children being rescued and 3 arrests,” said Attorney General Schmitt.

The operation was part of Schmitt's latest crackdown on human trafficking in the state. In October of last year, Schmitt announced his office was launching the "Hope Initiative," a new first-of-its-kind initiative to combat human trafficking by targeting illicit massage businesses.

Since the announcement, a multitude of massage parlors have been evicted or shut down. In addition to this, just days after Schmitt's announcement a sex trafficking operation was conducted in Oak Grove, Missouri that resulted in five men being detained, 10 women being rescued, and three children under the age of 5 being taken into protective custody.

This operation, as well as the latest operation conducted in St. Joseph, have been done in coalition with a number of agencies. Schmitt says this team effort is the key to their success. 

"This operation was successful because of cooperation between my Office, the St. Joseph Police Department, the state highway patrol, the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office, and 13 other agencies and departments," Schmitt said. 

Of the agencies involved in the operation was the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC). The DOC said two of its staff members were "instrumental" in the takedown. 

District 20 Administrator Tena Riley and Missouri Information Analysis Center Investigator Katie Folsom are part of the Attorney General’s Office Human Trafficking Task Force, which consists of law enforcement and victim service providers from around the state "working together to combat human trafficking, rescue victims and make Missouri communities safer," a news release said.

Working with representatives from other agencies, Riley and Folsom contributed intelligence expertise to the task force and also performed communications roles in the St. Joseph operation.

 “The task force is amazing; they're just so dedicated. I'm super thankful to be involved," Riley says. "Human trafficking is an all-encompassing problem. If we all work together, we’re going to make a dynamic change.”

The investigation into the human trafficking incident in St. Joseph is ongoing. For this reason, a news release said further details about the operation can't be released at this time.

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