The US Marshals Service has successfully rescued dozens of missing children in September, some of whom had been taken by human trafficking operations. Over the past month, the agency has located 35 missing children in the northern Ohio region as a part of Operation Safety Net. The operation was the latest of several this year to rescue children from the clutches of traffickers across the nation.
A Job for US Marshals
Federal and state officials initiated Operation Safety Net in August to locate some 200 children missing in northeastern Ohio. As part of the operation, officials forwarded 40 of those cases to the US Marshal Service.
35 missing and endangered children, between the ages of 13 and 18, were recovered during Operation Safety Net in the Cleveland, OH. area. More than 20% were tied to human trafficking cases and those cases were referred to the Human Trafficking Task Force in Cuyahoga County.— U.S. Marshals (@USMarshalsHQ) September 21, 2020
Within its first two weeks, the operation recovered 25 of those missing children, according to WISTV news. While Marshals found most in Ohio, they found others as far away as Miami, Florida. Reportedly, one in four had been victims of human trafficking.
“These are kids that have been abused, neglected,” said US Marshal Pete Elliott. “Some involved in human trafficking.”
While some of the missing children had become entangled in human trafficking, others reportedly ran away to escape similar abuses at home.
“Sometimes the situations they go to, believe it or not, may be better than the situations they left from,” Elliott said. “We’ve had some cases where the mother and/or father maybe have been prostituting their own child.”
By September 21, marshals had recovered 35 of the 40 missing kids referred to them. According to an agency statement, 20% were recovered from human trafficking operations.
Missing Children Found Nationwide
The USMS S/IN District & Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, in coordination with Indianapolis MPD and @MissingKids NCMEC, recently wrapped up Operation Homecoming to recover highly endangered missing children throughout the Indianapolis area. https://t.co/UkBiUZLjGh pic.twitter.com/DFmENuLtWU— U.S. Marshals (@USMarshalsHQ) September 4, 2020
As ABC6 notes, Operation Safety Net is the latest operation this year to succesfully locate missing children and crack down on trafficking. Operation Homecoming, for example, reportedly recovered eight missing children in Indianapolis earlier in September.
Meanwhile, authorities in Georgia rescued 26 missing children and confirmed the safety of 13 others last month.
Marshals in Ohio are still searching for the final five missing children on the agency’s referral list. They are Leantwana Bates, 17; Yalonda Bates, 15; Ja-Niya Scott-Lee, 16; Alicia Jackson, 16 and Isaac Ortiz, 16.
The success of the operation so far has led the US Marshals Service to create a permanent Missing Child Unit in the northern Ohio region. The unit’s purpose will be “to focus on those missing, abused, neglected, and trafficked juveniles.”
“This was new, uncharted territory, and the first time we conducted an operation like this,” Elliott said in a press release. “I am very proud of our law enforcement, community and media partners who worked tirelessly to bring our missing and most vulnerable children to safety.”