Nightmares are coming to an end for many missing kids in Northeast Ohio as the U.S. Marshals Service conducts “Operation Safety Net” to bring home as many of the region’s roughly 200 missing children as it can.
In its first two weeks, the operation carried out by the Marshals Service and local police departments rescued 25 children.
“These are kids that have been abused, neglected. Some involved in human trafficking,” U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott told WOIO-TV for a story published Aug. 28.
Elliott said some of the children fled one nightmare to land in another.
Operation Safety Net recovered 25 missing children in its first two weeks, and the sting is continuing right now: https://t.co/0Oz8jiqJ26
— U.S. Marshals (@USMarshalsHQ) August 31, 2020
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“Sometimes the situations they — they go to, believe it or not, may be better than the situations they left from,” Elliott said. “We’ve had some cases where the mother and or father, or both, may have been prostituting their own child.”
“In the past 20 days, U.S. Marshals have worked with Cleveland, East Cleveland and Newburgh Heights police departments to find just over two dozen missing children between 13 and 18 years old,” WOIO reported.
About one-quarter of those found were human trafficking victims.
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“Some we found in Miami, [Florida]. We have Bedford, Bedford Heights, West Side, East Side, Akron, Mansfield and so on,” Elliott said.
“We’re trying to do our part. A number of these children have gone to the hospital after we’ve recovered them to get checked out, so again this is something we take very seriously.”
Operation Safety Net is partnering with the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force, a group of 350 people from 125 law enforcement agencies.
“I’ll tell you this, it will be something we’ll be doing every year. This is our first time we have done this, it’s been uncharted territory for us, but we’ve had great success,” Elliott said.
The Marshals Service is currently also conducting a two-week operation near Indianapolis, Darby Kirby, head of the agency’s Missing Child Unit, told USA Today.
The unit recently recovered 39 children in a similar operation in Georgia dubbed “Operation Not Forgotten.”
In the Georgia operation, 15 children were victims of trafficking. Most of those were runaways “who fell into the human trafficking realm,” Kirby said.
“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 in a statement concerning the Georgia operation.
“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.”
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