The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) Missing Child Unit concluded a two-week operation in Georgia that led to the rescue of 26 children and the safe location of 13 others.
“Operation Not Forgotten” also led to the arrest of nine people on multiple charges, including sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, and drugs and weapons possession.
“These missing 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, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and medical or mental health conditions,” the agency said in a press release.
Darby Kirby, Chief of the Missing Child Unit, said, “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.”
“It’s hard to put into words what we feel when we rescue a missing child, but I can tell you that this operation has impacted every single one of us out here. We are working to protect them and get them the help they need,” Kirby added.
Since 2005, the agency has worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to recover more than 1,800 missing children.
In 2015, President Obama signed into law the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which enhanced the Marshals’ authority “to assist federal, state, and local law enforcement with the recovery of missing, endangered or abducted children, regardless of whether a fugitive or sex offender was involved.” Under the act, the Missing Child Unit was formed to implement the agency’s enhanced authority.
“We’re really good at what we do. You know, they’ve called us manhunters. Well, we’re not just manhunters anymore. We also help save and rescue children as well,” Kirby stated in a press conference.
The U.S. Marshals worked with seven other agencies on Operation Not Forgotten, including its Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force; the NCMEC; and agencies in Atlanta, Macon and the state of Georgia to find and rescue the missing 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,” Donald Washington, Director of the Marshals Service said in the press release.
“The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you.”
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