U.S. Marshals have announced the safe recovery of more than two dozen missing Ohio children, adding to the number safely found in another mass human trafficking bust in Georgia.
“Operation Safety Net,” based out of Cleveland, recovered 25 missing teens between ages 13 and 18 in its first two weeks, according to a U.S. Marshals news release obtained last week by the Akron Beacon Journal. This news came the same day as another Marshals announcement on the recovery of 39 other missing children in Georgia’s “Operation Not Forgotten.”
About one-fourth of the Ohio cases have been linked to human trafficking or prostitution, the Ohio release stated.
These operations are part of a fairly new focus for the U.S. Marshals service, which usually specializes in tracking down fugitives, Anne Murphy, a Marshals supervisory deputy, said in a phone interview with Oxygen.com. Ohio Marshals have never before attempted an operation like this, but it's a program it hopes to continue: “Operation Safety Net” currently has no set end date, Murphy said.
Although no arrests were made “in direct relationship” to the missing kids, several arrests made were “peripheral” to the children’s disappearance, Murphy said. She added that some — but not all — of the children were being kept in dangerous conditions, but she did not provide further details.
Georgia’s “Operation Not Forgotten" resulted in nine arrests, clearing 26 warrants in total, according to a U.S. Marshals press release.
One incident involved a 3-year-old who was being held by three adults in a Florida motel. One of the adults was arrested on a warrant for incest with a minor, aggravated child molestation, and aggravated sodomy, CBS Tampa reported. The other adults were also arrested: one on a warrant for probation violation, the other on charges of interfering with child custody.
Missing children is a nationwide problem. More than 23,500 children were reported “endangered runaways” in 2019 by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Of these, about one in six was likely involved in child sex trafficking.
As for “Operation Safety Net,” U.S. Marshals hope to continue safely bringing children home for many years to come.
“I’ll tell you this, it will be something we’ll be doing every year. This is our first time we’ve done this, it’s been uncharted territory for us, but we’ve had great success,” U.S. Marshal Pete Elliot told Cleveland station WOIO.
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