The US Marshals Service Missing Child Unit has rescued 26 children and confirmed the safety of an additional 13, while arresting nine people for child trafficking-related offenses in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia.
The children rescued were aged between three and 17 years old, and 15 were confirmed as victims of sex trafficking.
The massive sweep concluded the two-week-long Operation Not Forgotten, as officers cleared 26 arrest warrants in total, including charges for sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, drugs and weapons possession, and custodial interference.
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“The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you,” said Director of the US Marshals Service (USMS) Donald Washington, who praised the success of the operation that aimed to recover “some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area.”
Washington highlighted the particular concerns of law enforcement, both local and federal, about the potential for child sex trafficking, child exploitation, sexual abuse and physical abuse, in addition to medical or mental health conditions among some of the children.
“When we track down fugitives, it’s a good feeling to know that we’re putting the bad guy behind bars. But that sense of accomplishment is nothing compared to finding a missing child,” said Darby Kirby, Chief of the Missing Child Unit.
The USMS helped recover 295 missing children in 2019 – 75 percent of the cases referred to it. It was granted the authority to recover missing children under the 2015 Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, and it established the Missing Child Unit a year later. Since then, it has recovered more than 1,800 missing children.
More than 420,000 children are currently missing in the US, 91 percent of whom are believed to be at-risk runaways.
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