On Thursday, Operation Not Forgotten concluded with 39 missing children found. The operation was conducted over a two-week period in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia, during the month of August.
The US Marshal Service Missing Child Unit, USMS Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and state and local Georgia agencies worked together throughout the duration of the operation. Together they rescued 26 children and safely located 13 others.
“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,” stated a Marshal Service press release.
During the operation, local law enforcement requested assistance with locating 13 children in Georgia that they were concerned about due to varying circumstances. Marshal Service investigators located each of these children and personally assured their safety and well-being.
A total of nine suspects were arrested during the operation for charges ranging from a convicted felon in possession of a firearm to sex trafficking of juveniles.
“In every 40 seconds, there is a child abducted in the united states,” David Washington, the director of the US Marshals, said in a press conference Thursday. “The FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) recorded 421,394 missing children in 2019. Director Washington confirmed in the press conference that there are still over 421,000 reported missing children in the US currently.”
According to the NCMEC, “Unfortunately, since many children are never reported missing, there is no reliable way to determine the total number of children who are actually missing in the U.S.”
Director Washington noted that Operation Not Forgotten was a success but isn’t the only operation. Operation Safety Net is currently underway in Cleveland, Ohio. The joint task force in Cleveland has rescued 15 children so far and has arrested two suspects at this time. Operation Summer Rescue is in the process of “kicking off” in New Orleans.
“When we track down fugitives, it’s a good feeling to know that we’re putting the bad guy behind bars,” Darby Kirby, chief of the Missing Child Unit, said during the Thursday press conference. “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.”