The U.S. Marshals in the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia conducted a significant law enforcement effort, dubbed “Operation Find Our Children,” throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia that resulted in the recovery of 27 previously missing children and confirmed the location of six additional children previously reported as missing and 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 two federal judicial districts, along with 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 various medical professions. Subject matter experts at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) enhanced the team.
During one of the recoveries in the Roanoke area, a missing 16-year-old girl was found to be with two men who were subsequently arrested. Evidence of drug trafficking was found as well as one of the men, a convicted felon, had in his possession a loaded pistol.
The U.S. Marshals in the Western District of Virginia have had, and will continue to have, a sustained focus on recovering missing and endangered children. In the past 12 months, the U.S. Marshals investigations in western Virginia have led to the safe recovery of 17 children.
In one of these cases a 14-year-old girl was reported missing by her family in southwest Virginia. The investigation by Deputy Marshals uncovered evidence that she was endangered and a victim of human trafficking. Thanks to rapid intervention and coordination with partner agencies, she was recovered safely in Arlington, Virginia and returned to her family.
“The U.S. Marshals Service has a legendary history of finding fugitives and bringing them to justice,” said Thomas L. Foster, United States 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 33 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. We will find you.”
“There is no greater mission for law enforcement than rescuing an endangered child,” Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar of the Western District of Virginia said. “I applaud the United States 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, 33 children have been found and are now safe.”
Significant assistance for Operation Find Our Children was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia, along with the Roanoke City Police Department and Virginia Department of Social Services.
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 U.S. Marshals Service has recovered missing children in 75 percent of the cases it has received. Of those recovered, 72 percent were recovered within seven days.
Established in 1789, the U.S. Marshals Service is the nation’s first federal law enforcement agency. To learn more about the U.S. Marshals, visit: www.usmarshals.gov.