The Justice Department, on Friday, announced the completion of a five-day law enforcement effort, dubbed “Operation Find Our Children,” throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia that resulted in the recovery of 27 previously missing children. The operation also confirmed the location of six additional children previously reported as missing but subsequently discovered by the U.S. Marshals Service as being in the custody of their legal guardian.
Led by deputy U.S. Marshals from the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia, along with members of the U.S. Marshals Service Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force and special agents, police officers and detectives from numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, more than 60 law enforcement investigators formed the primary team in Operation Find Our Children. They were joined by more than 50 employees from the Virginia Department of Social Services and a team of medical professionals and experts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
The U.S. Marshals Service is leading the way in a nationwide effort to rescue and recover missing and exploited children, and aid in the prevention of human trafficking. Since 2005, the U.S. Marshals Service has recovered more than 2,000 missing children. Over the past five years, the agency has recovered missing children in 75 percent of the cases it has received. Of those recovered, 72 percent were recovered within seven days.
“The Department of Justice is dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable children in our society and ‘Operation Find Our Children’ does just that,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen. “While this Virginia operation is the most recent recovery of endangered and missing children led by the U.S. Marshals Service this year, we have also recovered more than 440 kids in Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana and other states. Because of this initiative, the recovered children are now out of harm’s way.”
“I can think of no more critical or satisfying mission for a law enforcement officer, than rescuing an endangered child,” said Nick E. Proffitt, U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This operation brought together a formidable team that was, and is, determined to come to the aid of our youth and bring to justice those among us that choose to prey on these vulnerable children. I am proud of the Deputy Marshals in the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia and their partners for the work they accomplished this week – and the results speak for themselves; these 27 children are safe once again. I am deeply humbled and highly honored that our team in Eastern Virginia is a continuing part of this critical Marshals Service mission. We want the missing children across this great nation to know the U.S. Marshals Service will never stop looking for you, we will find you.”
“The U.S. Marshals Service has a legendary history of finding fugitives and bringing them to justice,” said Thomas L. Foster, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Virginia. “Because of this specialized skill set, finding missing children is a natural extension of the Marshal’s mission. Although many of the 27 recoveries occurred in Virginia’s larger population centers, seven occurred in the Western District of Virginia to include Roanoke and Abingdon. This operation brought missing and exploited children to a place of safety and those who made the decision to prey upon them to justice.”
“What a tremendous testament to the power of cooperation and the mission of federal, state, and local law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia. “There is no greater mission than that of protecting and rescuing the most vulnerable. A huge debt of gratitude to the U.S. Marshal’s Service for their leadership of this operation and to all of the brave women and men of law enforcement who are responsible for saving these children.”
“There is no greater mission for law enforcement than rescuing an endangered child,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel P. Bubar of the Western District of Virginia. “I applaud the U.S. Marshals in the Western and Eastern Districts of Virginia for their leadership and willingness to leverage their expertise and partner with sister agencies to bring missing children home. We stand ready to investigate and prosecute any leads that come from this important operation.”
“The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was pleased to support the U.S. Marshals Service and the many support organizations that helped find and rescue these children,” said John F. Clark, President and CEO of NCMEC. “Missing children are extremely vulnerable to being trafficked for sex and are at risk of further emotional and physical harm. Because of this operation, 27 children have been found and are now safe.”
“Virginia Department of Social Services prioritizes and supports the safety and well-being of the children and families in Virginia, and prioritizes work with partners in achieving these goals, including this collaboration with the U.S. Marshals Service and through partnership with the local departments of social services, (LDSS) including those that directly supported the operation,” said Director of the Division of Family Services, Kristin Zagar.