MACON, Ga. – Thirty-nine missing children were rescued after a two-week operation led by the U.S. Marshals Service Missing Child Unit in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia, officials said Friday.
U.S. marshals said during “Operation Not Forgotten,” which was conducted along with other officials, 26 children were rescued and the other 13 were located to make sure they were safe.
Nine people were arrested. Investigators said they filed charges for alleged crimes related to sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, drugs and weapons possession and custodial interference during the operation.
“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,” said Director of the Marshals Service Donald Washington. “The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you.”
Investigators said the missing children were considered to be some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area. Investigators said they were able to confirm each child’s location in person and assure their safety.
In 2019, the USMS helped recover 295 missing children and has contributed to the recovery of a missing child in 75% of cases they’ve received. Of the missing children recovered, USMS said 66% were recovered within seven days of the agency assisting with the case. Since its partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children began in 2005, the agency has recovered 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,” said Darby Kirby, chief of the Missing Child Unit. “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.”
On Friday, local authorities sounded the alarm stating with the Coronavirus pandemic children are spending more time online and human trafficking is up.