The U.S. Marshals Service in Colorado announced on Tuesday that 11 “critically endangered” missing children were recovered as part of a two-week, multi-agency effort dubbed “Operation Lost and Found.”
According to the federal law enforcement agency, the children were between the ages of 12 and 17 and had all been reported missing to local authorities.
The effort was conducted throughout the Denver metropolitan area from Nov. 7 to Nov. 18 in coordination with the Aurora Police Department and the National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children.
“These children … were considered to be some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area, based on indications of high-risk factors such as victimization of child sex trafficking, child exploitation, sex abuse, physical abuse, and medical or mental health conditions,” the U.S. Marshals stated in a Nov. 29 news release.
Once law enforcement located the children, Aurora police worked with the state’s human services department to return each child to their rightful home or determine if another placement for a child was needed.
The operation also culminated in the arrest of one adult who has been accused of alleged interference with a custodial order as part of the operation. The individual was not identified.
The agency noted that it was a first-of-its-kind effort by the U.S. Marshals Service to locate and recover endangered missing children in Colorado.
“As the Marshals continue to develop our Missing Child Unit, we will continue to support state and local law enforcement partners in locating and reunifying missing and exploited children with their families,” said Kirk Taylor, U.S. Marshal for the District of Colorado.
In 2015, the agency formed the Missing Child Unit (MCU) after the “Justice for Juvenile Victims of Trafficking Act,” also known as the JVTA, was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and signed into law by former President Barack Obama. The law granted the U.S. Marshals Service the authority to assist with these types of missing child cases.
“The mission of the MCU is to develop, implement and oversee a comprehensive nationwide missing child investigative program, utilizing all available U.S. Marshals Service investigative resources and disciplines in coordination with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,” the agency stated.
“The MCU provides program development, review, and refinement with the ultimate goal of assisting federal, state, and local partners to recover as many missing children as possible in the interest of public safety.”
In October 2021, the agency announced that U.S. Marshals recover missing children in approximately 75 percent of cases it receives, and of those located, 72 percent were found within seven days. At that time, the agency said it had recovered more than 1,700 missing children over a five-year period.