Nearly 40 missing children were found after the U.S. Marshals Service carried out a two-week rescue operation in Georgia.
The Marshals Service’s Missing Child Unit worked with state and local law enforcement to rescue 26 missing children and safely located 13 others as part of Operation Not Forgotten. The children ranged in age from 3 years old to 17 years old. Fifteen of the children are believed to be victims of sex trafficking.
“I have children. I’m sure many of you do as well. These are not my kids, and these are not your kids, but actually they are our kids when it’s all said and done,” said U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald Washington.
“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,” he added. “The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you.”
Nine individuals were arrested in connection to the operation, including Zachary Bailey, Stanson Causey, Trevontae Shareef, and Kirk Water. Darby Kirby, chief of the Missing Child Unit, said the Marshals Service is proud of its work to track down and arrest those accused of abusing 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,” Kirby said. “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.”
“We’re really good at what we do. You know, they’ve called us man hunters. Well, we’re not just man hunters anymore,” Kirby said. “We also help save and rescue children as well.”
There are 420,000 missing children in the United States, of whom 91% are runaways believed to be in danger. Many of the rescued children will be taking part in rehabilitative programs.