UNITED STATES—On August 27, the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) announced the rescue of 26 missing children and learned of the location of 13 others in and around Atlanta and Macon, Georgia. Nine suspects have been arrested on sex offender violations and other charges.

According to the U.S. Marshals Service Missing Child Unit, in conjunction with the agency’s Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force and NCMEC, Georgia state and local agencies led a two-week investigation as part of “Operation Child Find,” that led to the children being rescued.

U.S. marshal talking to a woman

Investigators cleared 26 arrest warrants and filed additional charges including crimes involving sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, custodial interference and registered sex offender violations, along with charges of possession of drugs and weapons. Of the 26 warrants, 19 were arrest warrants. Some of the individuals arrested had multiple warrants for their arrest.

“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,” said Darby Kirby, Chief of the Missing Child Unit.

“These missing children were considered to be some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area, based on indications of high-risk factors such as victimization of child sex trafficking, child exploitation, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and medical or mental health conditions. Other children were located at the request of law enforcement to ensure their wellbeing. USMS investigators were able to confirm each child’s location in person and assure their safety and welfare,” said the U.S. Marshal’s Service in a report.

“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,” said Director of the Marshals Service Donald Washington.

The USMS was able to assist local law enforcement in recovering 295 missing children in 2019.

Donald Washington

Washington told reporters, “As successful as this operation was, there is a harsh reality here, why are we doing this in the first place? Why do we have missing endangered children? The stats are that in every 40 seconds a child is abducted in the United States.”

Washington’s message to the lost children and their families, “We will never stop looking for you.”

The effort took several months and the cooperation and joint efforts of several agencies including USMS, NCMEC, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Office of Attorney General, Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.