First Responders

Operation Safeguard Recovers 16 Missing Children in Philadelphia Area

March 22, 2021Joshua Skovlund
US Marshals recover missing children

The US Marshals lead various initiatives that bring together federal, state, and local law enforcement partners in an effort to reduce crime, arrest violent fugitives, and recover missing children. 
Photo by Shane McCoy/US Marshals.

The US Marshals Service recovered 16 missing children — including four suspected to be victims of child sex trafficking — in a series of raids and other actions over the last month, most in or around the Philadelphia region.

The Marshals Service announced the results of Operation Safeguard, a multiagency effort to recover endangered children, on Thursday. Ten other children marshals were seeking remain at large, including two children in active child sex trafficking investigations.

“I applaud the exceptional cooperation among our respective agencies in combating this most abhorrent affront to society,” said Eric Gartner, US marshal for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Our hope is for a better future for the 16 children we recovered. Our resolve remains steadfast in finding other children in peril.”

The operation ran from Feb. 15 to March 15. Marshals selected each case for the operation based on “high-risk factors” like child exploitation and sex trafficking, sexual abuse, physical abuse, or medical and mental health conditions.

The operation was a collaboration of the USMS, Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Bucks County Children Youth Social Services. 

The USMS Missing Child Unit was established in 2015 to assist local agencies in high-profile missing child cases. Since its launch, the unit has helped recover 1,788 children. As of March 19, they have recovered 450 children this year so far. 

Read Next: Most Wanted: 15 of the US Marshals’ Top Fugitives

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis that followed the death of George Floyd. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he earned his CrossFit Level 1 certificate and worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. He went on to work in paramedicine for more than five years, much of that time in the North Minneapolis area, before transitioning to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion, where he publishes poetry focused on his life experiences.

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