In a remarkable 10-week operation known as “Operation We Will Find You,” the U.S. Marshals Service successfully located and recovered 225 missing children across the nation and even beyond its borders. This significant mission, aimed at rescuing critically missing children, highlights the unwavering commitment of law enforcement agencies to protect our most vulnerable population.
Led by the U.S. Marshals, the operation resulted in the recovery of 169 children, while an additional 59 were safely located. Tragically, some of these children were found to be victims of child sex trafficking, exploitation, sexual abuse, or physical abuse, or were struggling with medical or mental health conditions. The youngest child rescued was a mere six months old, reminding us of the urgent need to prioritize child protection.
“Operation We Will Find You” focused on areas with high concentrations of critically missing children, including eastern Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland, Massachusetts, South Carolina, New Orleans, San Antonio, Detroit, Yakima in Washington, Orlando in Florida, Los Angeles, northern Ohio, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Notably, the operation’s efforts extended beyond national borders, resulting in the recovery of ten endangered children in Mexico.
The U.S. Marshals Service collaborated closely with state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), to ensure the success of the operation. This partnership proved crucial, as allegations of trafficking were reported in over 40 of the cases the U.S. Marshals Service assisted with.
Of the cases closed, the majority (86%) involved endangered runaways, nearly 9% were family abductions, and 5% were categorized as otherwise missing. These statistics underscore the complexity and range of challenges involved in locating missing children and emphasize the necessity of collaborative efforts between agencies.
It is worth noting that the U.S. Marshals Service’s involvement proved instrumental in expediting the recovery process. In fact, 62% of the children were found within seven days of the U.S. Marshals Service joining the search. These swift actions undoubtedly played a vital role in ensuring the safety and well-being of these endangered children.
Ronald Davis, Director of the U.S. Marshals Service, expressed the agency’s unwavering commitment to protecting children, particularly the most vulnerable among us. Davis emphasized the importance of collaboration between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and applauded the partnership between the U.S. Marshals Service and the NCMEC. Together, they have successfully recovered over 3,100 missing children since the passage of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act in 2015.
Michelle DeLaune, President & CEO of NCMEC, lauded the U.S. Marshals Service for prioritizing child protection and commended the participating state and local agencies for their support in recovering the 225 endangered missing children.
If you have any information regarding missing or endangered children, please contact your local police department or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-The-Lost.