ATLANTA, Ga. – The U.S. Marshals Service says it found 39 missing children in Georgia this month during an investigation called “Operation Not Forgotten.”
The two-week operation in Atlanta and Macon resulted in the rescue of 26 children, the safe location of 13 kids and the arrest of nine “criminal associates,” the USMS announced Thursday.
Additionally, investigators say they cleared 26 arrest 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.
The USMS says the 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.
Since its partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the USMS says it 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.”
This month’s operation was the culmination of several months of planning and coordination between the USMS, NCMEC, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Office of the Attorney General, Georgia Department of Family and Children Services, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“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.”