In Georgia, authorities recently found 39 missing children during a two-week effort to rescue the endangered minors in Atlanta and Macon. The search, which was deemed "Operation Not Forgotten," was conducted by the U.S. Marshals Service Missing Child Unit in conjunction with the agency's Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and state and local agencies. The operation resulted in the rescue of 26 children, the safe location of 13 children, and the arrest of nine criminal associates.
The U.S. Marshals Service released a statement regarding this investigation. They shared that investigators cleared 26 arrest warrants and filed additional charges for alleged crimes related to parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, drugs and weapons possession, sex trafficking, and custodial interference. Of the 26 warrants that they cleared, 19 of those arrest warrants were for a total of nine individuals who were arrested. Some of those individuals had multiple warrants for their arrest. Donald Washington, the Director of the Marshals Service, released a statement that read, "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. The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you."
The U.S. Marshals' statement, which was released on Thursday, noted that the children in this case were considered to be some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the Atlanta, Georgia area. They were considered to be challenging cases due to the high-risk nature of the crimes associated with this incident, including the victimization of child trafficking, sexual and physical abuse, and child exploitation. Investigators were able to confirm each child's location and were subsequently able to assure their safety and welfare. At a news conference, Washington explained that the children involved in this investigation ranged from 3 to 17 years old, per CNN.
The U.S. Marshals Service noted that in 2019, they were able to help recover 295 missing children based on requests that they received from various law enforcement agencies. They have also contributed to the recovery of a missing child in 75 percent of the cases that they received. Ever since the U.S. Marshals Service partnered with NCMEC in 2005, they have been able to recover more than 1,800 missing children. "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," Darby Kirby, Chief of the Missing Child Unit, said. "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."