About 200 children are currently listed as missing in Northeast Ohio and a task force led by U.S. Marshals is working to find them.
“Operation Safety Net recovered 25 missing children in its first two weeks, and the sting is continuing right now,” Cleveland 19 News reported on Friday.
U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott told the outlet he has seen the nightmares so many of the children have suffered.
“These are kids that have been abused, neglected. Some involved in human trafficking. Sometimes the situations they—they go to, believe it or not, may be better than the situations they left from,” Elliott said.
“We’ve had some cases where the mother and or father, or both, may have been prostituting their own child,” he added.
The U.S. Marshals joined with the Cleveland, East Cleveland, and Newburgh Heights police departments to locate about two dozen missing children between the ages of 13 and 18-years-old in the past 20 days.
“We’re trying to do our part. A number of these children have gone to the hospital after we’ve recovered them to get checked out, so again this is something we take very seriously,” Elliott explained.
The operation focused its efforts on Cleveland and surrounding cities but also covered northern Ohio with assistance from the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force, the 19 News report said, adding that it would continue for several weeks.
“I’ll tell you this, it will be something we’ll be doing every year. This is our first time we have done this, it’s been uncharted territory for us, but we’ve had great success,” Elliott stated.
In a press release Thursday, the U.S. Marshals Service announced it found 39 missing children and arrested nine criminal associates in Georgia during Operation Not Forgotten:
These missing children were considered to be some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area, based on indications of high-risk factors such as victimization of child sex trafficking, child exploitation, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and medical or mental health conditions. Other children were located at the request of law enforcement to ensure their wellbeing. USMS investigators were able to confirm each child’s location in person and assure their safety and welfare.
“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,” Chief of the Missing Child Unit Darby Kirby said.
NEW: More than two dozen missing children have been rescued in an operation carried out by U.S. Marshals and Georgia investigators — the agencies called it “operation not forgotten.”
Investigators arrested nine people on charges that include sex trafficking and kidnapping. pic.twitter.com/mDcwHeyH1l
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) August 27, 2020
The U.S. Marshals Service was fully committed to helping federal, state, and local authorities find missing children along with their primary fugitive apprehension mission, according to Director of the Marshals Service Donald Washington.
“The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you,” he concluded.