The US Marshals Service Missing Child Unit led the search, dubbed “Operation Not Forgotten.” It collaborated with the agency’s Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and state and local agencies.
The operation resulted in the rescue of 26 children and safe location of 13 others, US Marshals said in a news release
“The US 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,” US Marshals Service Director Donald Washington said in a statement
. “The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you.”
During the operation, authorities arrested nine people, cleared 26 warrants and filed additional charges for alleged crimes related to sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, drugs and weapons possession and custodial interference, US Marshals said.
Some of the rescued children were believed to have been victims of child sex trafficking, child exploitation, sexual abuse, physical abuse and medical or mental health conditions. Others were missing and located at the request of law enforcement to make sure they weren’t in danger.
The children ranged in age from 3 to 17, Washington said at a news conference.
The rescues were “the most at risk and challenging recovery cases in the area,” he said.
Every 40 seconds a child goes missing in the United States, accounting for 765,000 missing children a year, according to the FBI
. Since US Marshals partnered with NCMEC in 2005, the agency has recovered more than 1,800 missing children.