KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -

(Released for publication) FBI Knoxville Acting Special Agent in Charge Timothy Slater, Knoxville Field Office, announces that during the past week, FBI Knoxville, together with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Chattanooga Police Department, Red Bank Police Department, and Homeland Security Investigations, conducted Operation Cross Country VIII to address commercial child sex trafficking throughout the United States. The operation included enforcement actions in several cities throughout East Tennessee and led to 17 arrests. Eight women were arrested for prostitution, four women were arrested for promoting prostitution, two women were arrested for human trafficking, and three men were cited for solicitation.

Acting Special Agent in Charge Slater said “Sex trafficking of children is a serious and troubling offense and it will not be tolerated. We are fortunate to work with dedicated and capable local, state, and federal law enforcement partners as we address this threat. We want to especially thank the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Hamilton County Sheriff’s office, Chattanooga Police Department, Red Bank Police Department, and Homeland Security Investigation, without them, this operation would not have been possible.”

Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative that was established in 2003 by the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to address the growing problem of child prostitution.

To date, the FBI and its task force partners have recovered more than 3,400 children from being exploited. The investigations and subsequent 1,450 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including 14 life terms.

The Innocence Lost National Initiative brings state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and social service providers from across the country to NCMEC for training.