Over the course of a two-week period, U.S. Marshals have tracked down 39 missing children in Georgia and Florida.
During the initiative “Operation Not Forgotten,” the U.S. Marshals Service Missing Child Unit worked alongside the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and partnered with state and local agencies in Georgia to rescue 26 missing children. Officials also safety located 13 others.
The ages of the children ranged from 3 to 17, according to WAGA-TV. The U.S. Marshals Service identified 15 of the kids as victims of sex trafficking.
According to a statement from the federal agency, its officials have also issued 26 arrest warrants for nine individuals and “filed additional charges for alleged crimes related to sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, drugs and weapons possession, and custodial interference.”
“The U.S. Marshals Service is fully committed to assisting federal, state, and local agencies with locating and recovering endangered missing children, in addition to their primary fugitive apprehension mission,” said Donald Washington, director of the U.S. Marshals Service. “The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you.”
He continued, “I have children. I’m sure many of you do as well. These are not my kids and these are not your kids. But actually, they are our kids when it’s all said and done. Here in Atlanta, approximately 300 young girls are lured into sex trafficking every month.”
The U.S. Marshals Service said it assisted in recovering 295 missing children in 2019.
Darby Kirby, chief of the Missing Child Unit, said it’s “a good feeling to know that we’re putting the bad guy behind bars,” referring to when they successfully capture fugitives.
“But that sense of accomplishment is nothing compared to finding a missing child,” he continued. “It’s hard to put into words what we feel when we rescue a missing child, but I can tell you that this operation has impacted every single one of us out here. We are working to protect them and get them they help they need.”