Dozens of child victims of sex trafficking have been found and rescued by federal authorities after a two-week search, the Washington Examiner reported Friday.
According to the Examiner, nine individuals are now in federal custody for sex trafficking, kidnapping, and other crimes after the U.S. Marshals Service conducted a sweeping operation in Georgia that saved 39 missing children.
“Putting the bad guy behind bars”
According to the Examiner, the Marshals Service rescued 26 children and located 13 others safely. In a news release published Thursday, the agency said the children had “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, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and medical or mental health conditions.”
The children are as young as 3 years old and include 15 victims of sex trafficking.
According to the Examiner, those arrested in the sting include Zachary Bailey, Stanson Causey, Trevontae Shareef, and Kirk Water.
A total of 26 warrants were cleared, the Marshals Service said Thursday, and new charges have been filed for sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, drugs and weapons possession, and custodial interference.
“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,” Darby Kirby, chief of the Marshals Service’s Missing Child Unit, said of the operation, according to the Examiner. “We are working to protect them and get them the help they need.”
“We will never stop looking”
The U.S. Marshals Service said Thursday that its Missing Child Unit coordinated the two-week mission, called Operation Not Forgotten, with state and local authorities, the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
In a statement of his own, the chief of the Marshals Service, Donald Washington, hailed the heroic operation and vowed that the agency will “never stop looking” for missing and endangered children.
“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,” Washington said, according to the Examiner. “The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you.”
According to its Thursday release, the Marshals Service set up its Missing Child Unit after Congress expanded its authority to help law enforcement rescue missing and endangered children in 2015.
There are 420,000 missing children in the country, 91% of whom are runaways in danger of harm, the Marshals Service said, according to a report from Fox 5 Atlanta. Last year, the Marshals Service rescued 295 missing children, and they have rescued over 1,800 missing children since 2005.