The Department of Justice announced Friday U.S. Marshals have recovered 27 missing children through a rescue operation in Virginia.
“Operation Find Our Children” — a five-day undertaking — was the latest in a string of initiatives led by the U.S. Marshals Service to reunite endangered and missing children across the country with their parents and legal guardians.
According to a report from Fox News, more than 60 investigators were involved with a team helmed by U.S. Marshals from the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia.
Nick E. Proffitt, who works for the Eastern District, said in a statement: “I can think of no more critical or satisfying mission for a law enforcement officer than rescuing an endangered child.”
“This operation brought together a formidable team that was, and is, determined to come to the aid of our youth and bring to justice those among us that choose to prey on these vulnerable children,” he explained.
Proffitt said he is “deeply humbled and highly honored” that his team in the U.S. Marshals Service was able to play a critical role in the effort to rescue children.
“We want the missing children across this great nation to know the U.S. Marshals Service will never stop looking for you,” he added. “We will find you.”
In addition to the 27 children rescued, the service located six other children ultimately found to be in the custody of their legal guardians.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen pointed out that, although the Virginia operation is the latest effort to recover endangered and missing children, the U.S. Marshals Service has this year “recovered more than 440 kids in Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, and other states across the U.S.
The rescue operation in Virginia came on the heels of a similar initiative — “Operation Autumn Hope” — in Ohio and West Virginia. That operation led to the rescue of 45 missing and endangered children as well as 179 arrests made by the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force.
The operation was supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“These predators shamelessly target the most innocent and defenseless members of our community,” Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said in a statement. “Operation Autumn Hope is sending a loud and clear message: We are watching, we will catch you, and we will protect our children.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said the success of “Operation Autumn Hope” is “measured not only in the number of arrests but in the lives that were rescued from this evil.”
“Every agency on this team looks for the day when no person is bought and sold in Ohio,” he added. “Don’t buy sex in Ohio.”