EUGENE, Ore. — A Eugene nonprofit that helps at-risk youth is reacting to a recent FBI sex trafficking sting.
Operation Cross Country 8 included enforcement action in 54 field office and 106 cities across the U.S.
Here in Oregon, the multi-day undercover operations targeted child sex trafficking operations in Portland and Eugene.
The sting operations began last Wednesday and wrapped on Sunday.
“In many cases they involve motels, and the victims and the traffickers are contacted in many different ways. Often times these days it means websites, a website posting offering the girl for sexual relations,” said Beth Steele, FBI Public Affairs.
The five-day sting resulted in the recovery of one minor child and the identification of 20 adult prostitutes.
“Many of them who are 18 or 19 or 20 years old were trafficked as much younger kids as 13 or 14 year olds, and they have been caught up in that cycle of abuse and violence,” Steele said.
“What’s sad is that it’s not surprising,” said Craig Opperman, CEO of Looking Glass Youth and Family Services.
Opperman says it’s usually the runaway and homeless youth who are vulnerable who get caught up in the trafficking and prostitution.
“I would tell you our outreach workers would say that at least a couple of kids a month, if not more, are letting us know that they are being actively trafficked, so pimps or gang members have gotten a hold of them,” Opperman said.
During the sting, Eugene police also arrested Alexandra Roberts of Vancouver and charged her with promoting prostitution. EPD says she was dropping another woman off at a hotel in Eugene.
Child services was also called because a child was in the car.
Opperman says it’s important if you see something out of the ordinary to contact police. You may just be saving a life.
“These are not criminals. These are generally young people. They have been manipulated and or forced into an activity against their will,” Opperman said.
During the sting, law enforcement and social service providers worked with each victim to provide counseling, mental health services, medical assistance and housing.