The U.S. Marshals Service announced this week that 225 missing or endangered children were recovered as part of a 10-week, multi-state effort dubbed “Operation We Will Find You.”
In a news release on May 24, the federal law enforcement agency said the children include runaways as well as abductees by non-custodial individuals.
The operation, described by the agency as an effort focused on areas with high clusters of critically missing or endangered children, resulted in the safe location of 56 children and the recovery of 169 children. The children were found in areas both inside and outside the United States.
The youngest child who was rescued during the multi-agency effort was just six months old, the agency revealed. Additionally, of the missing children recovered, 62 percent were found within a week of the U.S. Marshals Service assisting with the investigation.
Meanwhile, U.S. Marshals also noted that 42 children were found outside of the city they went missing in, with 10 of those children being located in Mexico. Additionally, a number of teenage girls—described by the agency as possible victims of human trafficking—were located in the Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County areas from March 1 to May 15 as part of the nationwide sting operation, according to a separate May 24 news release.
Data released by the agency shows that 86 percent of the children were endangered runaways, 9 percent were family abductions, and 5 percent were considered otherwise missing.
Also as part of the operation, U.S. Marshals arrested a “Top 15 Most Wanted” couple after they fled from Washington state to Mexico with their five children—who they had taken into hiding. Investigators said charges for individuals taken into custody include sex offender violations, as well as “other related charges.”
“The U.S. Marshals Service is fully committed to the important mission of protecting the American people, especially our most vulnerable population—our children,” Ronald Davis, director of the federal law enforcement agency, said in a statement.
“The results of this operation underscore that commitment, but also highlight the necessity of these critical efforts,” he continued. “Our continued success can only be achieved through our collaboration with state and local law enforcement agencies, and partnership with NCMEC.”
The operation was largely conducted in federal districts across the United States, including the District of Columbia; Maryland; Massachusetts; South Carolina; New Orleans; San Antonio; Detroit; Yakima, Washington; Orlando, Florida; Los Angeles; eastern Virginia; northern Ohio; Guam; Puerto Rico; and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Most Challenging Cases
The agency noted that the missing or endangered children were regarded as some of the “most challenging recovery cases” in the area largely due to indications of “high-risk factors such as victimization of child sex trafficking, child exploitation, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and medical or mental health conditions.”
A total of 28 cases, meanwhile, were handed to law enforcement agencies for further investigation into crimes such as drugs, weapons, sex trafficking, and sex offender violations, according to the agency. Law enforcement reported allegations of human trafficking in over 40 of the cases the U.S. Marshals Service assisted with.
“Operation We Will Find You is a great example of how the U.S. Marshals Service continues to prioritize child protection,” NCMEC president and chief executive Michelle DeLaune said. “NCMEC is proud of our long-standing partnership with the USMS and commends them and the participating state and local agencies who helped recover the 225 endangered missing children.”
Since the passage of the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act” in 2015, the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) recovered over 3,100 missing children, Davis said.
The 2015 law enhances law enforcement’s tool kit to recover endangered missing children regardless of whether a fugitive or sex offender was involved.
“The U.S. Marshals Service established a Missing Child Unit to oversee and manage the implementation of its enhanced authority under the act,” the agency stated.
Any information about missing or endangered children should be reported to local police offices or to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-The-Lost. Information about violent fugitives can be provided to the U.S. Marshals Service at (504) 589-6872, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or with the USMS tips app. Crimestoppers GNO may also be contacted with tips at (504) 822-1111.