US Marshals rescue 39 missing children and arrest nine in massive two-week sex-trafficking operation in Georgia
A TWO-WEEK blitz on sex trafficking in Georgia has led to the discovery and rescue of 39 missing kids, US Marshals have revealed.
The children, who were aged from three to 17 years old, were found during raids in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia, and nine people have been arrested and charged with sex trafficking.
Authorities said the missing kids were at high risk of child sex trafficking, exploitation and abuse – with some suffering from medical and mental health conditions.
The missing dubbed Operation Not Forgotten was months in the planning and involved painstaking work with missing children agencies.
Director of the Marshals Service Donald Washington said: "The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you."
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr praised the rescue effort.
He said: "I cannot say enough about Operation Not Forgotten and the men and women behind it."
"Thirty-nine – That’s how many young lives are getting a new start, and that’s how we measure success."
The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you
Investigators were able to confirm each child’s location in person and allay concerns about their safety and welfare.
The US Marshals released video and photographs showing the effort to locate and rescue the missing children in the weeks-long operation.
It shows police officers in bullet vests entering homes believed to contain the missing kids.
One video shows an officer reassuring a rescued child in a car saying, "we’re going to get you something to drink".
Another scene shows three officers comforting a rescued child and bringing her into a car.
The intensive rescue was conducted by the US Marshals Service Missing Child Unit, the agency’s Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Georgia state and local agencies.
Overall in 2019 the USMS helped rescue 295 missing children based on requests for help from the police
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."
The suspects were also charged parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, drugs and weapons possession and custodial interference, officials said.
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