In recent weeks, multiple government agencies have been carrying out operations around the country to rescue missing children, many of whom are victims of human trafficking. On Friday, The Justice Department issued a press release announcing that they just wrapped up a five-day law enforcement operation that they called “Operation Find Our Children.”
In Virginia, authorities found and rescued 27 missing children, and human trafficking does seem to be involved in many of the cases, but police did not announce any arrests.
The mission was led by deputy U.S. Marshals from the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia, along with members of the U.S. Marshals Service Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force and special agents, police officers, and detectives from numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, as well as more than 60 law enforcement investigators.
In addition to the law enforcement officers on the task force, there were also more than 50 employees from the Virginia Department of Social Services and a team of medical professionals and experts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Since 2005, the U.S. Marshals Service has recovered more than 2,000 missing children. Over the past five years, the agency has recovered missing children in 75 percent of the cases it has received. Of those recovered, 72 percent were recovered within seven days, according to the press release.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said that this is just the most recent operation of many where the US Marshals service rescued missing children.
Rosen says that this year alone the agency has rescued more than 440 children in Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, and other states.
Just last week, a massive law enforcement operation in Ohio called Operation Autumn Hope has resulted in the arrest of 179 people under suspicion of human trafficking, and the rescue of 109 victims, 45 of whom were missing children. Some victims were as young as 14 or 15 years old. The victims were referred to social services, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 enhanced the U.S. Marshals’ authority to assist federal, state and local law enforcement with the recovery of missing, endangered or abducted children, regardless of whether a fugitive or sex offender was involved. The Marshals established a Missing Child Unit to oversee and manage the implementation of its enhanced authority under the act.
“The U.S. Marshals Service has a legendary history of finding fugitives and bringing them to justice,” said Thomas L. Foster, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Virginia. “Because of this specialized skill set, finding missing children is a natural extension of the Marshal’s mission. Although many of the 27 recoveries occurred in Virginia’s larger population centers, seven occurred in the Western District of Virginia to include Roanoke and Abingdon. This operation brought missing and exploited children to a place of safety and those who made the decision to prey upon them to justice.”