The victims rescued were sexually exploited, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The 4-year-old was the youngest victim rescued in the group of 31 human trafficking victims, which included 14 missing children and 17 adults.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that, “The operation took place June 17 -26, 2021 in Wichita, Kansas, Independence, Missouri and Kansas City, Missouri.”
“The results of the operation were announced by Homeland Security Investigations Deputy Special Agent in Charge, Kansas City, James Wright,” the statement read. “He was joined by Heartland Anti-Trafficking Rescue Taskforce partners from across the region in making the announcement.”
Along with rescuing the 31 human trafficking victims, the operation also resulted in the arrest of 82 individuals. The individuals “will be charged with crimes related to soliciting prostitution, commercial sex trafficking, sodomy, narcotics violations, felony assault on a police officer, sex offender registry violations and outstanding warrants,” according to the Homeland Security statement.
Homeland Security investigators received assistance during the operation from the Wichita Police Department; the Kansas Bureau of Investigation; Kansas Highway Patrol; the Department of Health and Human Services; the United States Marshal’s Service; the Platte County Sheriff’s Office; the Independence Police Department; the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department; Missouri State Highway Patrol; the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office and the Hutchinson Police Department.
The Department of Homeland Security did not identify any of the victims rescued or those arrested and noted that “the defendants in this case are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial where the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Homeland Security investigators completed a similar operation on Thursday in Fresno County, California. Operation Stolen Hearts focused on arresting human traffickers and child predators seeking to pay for sex with minors. The operation ended on June 23 and resulted in the rescue of 10 women and girls “from the sex trade,” as well as the arrest of 21 individuals, according to Homeland Security.
The arrested individuals were charged with “contacting a minor with intent to commit a sexual offense, aiding prostitution, arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes and solicitation of acts of prostitution.”
Newsweek reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.