U.S. Marshals and local authorities have rescued 39 children and arrested nine people in association with a trafficking ring in Georgia, the federal law enforcement agency reports.
The children were found as part of a two week mission dubbed "Operation Not Forgotten" in Atlanta and Macon.
“We recovered 26 missing and endangered children and we safely located an additional 13,” said Donald Washington, the director of the U.S. Marshals Service. The children ranged in age from 3 to 17. The operation also involved the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Georgia Attorney General and other state and local agencies.
The nine arrested will face charges of sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations or other related crimes.
“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," Darby Kirby, chief of the Marshals Service Missing Child Unit, said in a statement.
“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.”
Washington said a similar operation in Cleveland has recovered 15 children so far and led to the arrest of two people, and another operation is underway in New Orleans.
“There is no more meaningful work that law enforcement does than rescuing children," Washington said Thursday. "Our children are not for sale and they are not ever forgotten.”
Credit: Christine Jerian / EyeEm