Score one for the good guys. Today’s headlines are all about the presidential election and the Black Lives Matter protests and riots. Hardly any media sources have covered the rescue of 39 missing children – including 15 victims of sex trafficking – in the state of Georgia. Saving these children’s lives should be blasted across every front page and social media account instead of focusing on the months-long destruction and mayhem dominating Democratic cities. And this is just one more critical example of why defunding law enforcement is a dangerous and reckless maneuver.
“Operation Not Forgotten”
Law enforcement agencies came together for several months to coordinate a task force to retrieve missing children. “Operation Not Forgotten” consisted of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, Georgia Office of the Attorney General, Georgia Department of Family and Children Services, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, the FBI, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the U.S. Marshals Service Missing Child Unit (USMS), and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
The two-week rescue operation began in August and concluded with the recent, successful mission of retrieving dozens of endangered children and the arrests of several criminals. According to a press release from the USMS:
“‘Operation Not Forgotten’ resulted in the rescue of 26 children, the safe location of 13 children and the arrest of nine criminal associates. Additionally, investigators cleared 26 arrest warrants and filed additional charges for alleged crimes related to sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, drugs and weapons possession, and custodial interference. The 26 warrants cleared included 19 arrest warrants for a total of nine individuals arrested, some of whom had multiple warrants.”
The missing children were believed to be some of the state’s most at-risk cases with high-risk factors that included sex trafficking, sexual abuse, child exploitation, and some with mental or medical conditions. According to Save the Children: “Child trafficking affects every country in the world,” and children “make up 27% of all human trafficking victims worldwide, and two out of every three identified child victims are girls.”
The Chilling Statistics
The FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) estimates that in the United States alone, 460,000 children are reported missing each year. Last year, the USMS helped to recover 295 missing children. Since partnering with NCMEC in 2005, it has retrieved more than 1,800 missing children. While a majority are runaways, there are still way too many that are being sold into slavery and sex trafficking. Thorn, co-founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore in 2012, developed a program to help identify endangered children. The statistics they provide are chilling:
- More than 23,500 endangered runaways were reported to NCMEC in 2019; one in six were likely victims of child sex trafficking.
- The average age of a child sex trafficking victim is 15 years old.
- According to the FBI, 52% of all juvenile arrests for commercial sex acts are African-American children.
- More than 91% of girls in Los Angeles’ STAR Court, a court for child sex trafficking victims, are African American or Latino.
- According to studies, 50-90% of child sex trafficking victims have been involved in the child welfare system.
- A New York City study estimated that more than one in four homeless LGBTQ children and nearly half of gay or bisexual boys are victims.
- 1,000 American children are arrested for prostitution each year.
The NCMEC operates the CyperTipline, which enables people to report suspected child exploitation. In 2019, it received more than 16.9 million reports; 150,667 of those reports were from the public, while 16 million came from electronic service providers. Today, thanks to Operation Not Forgotten, 39 children have been rescued. Donald Washington, the director of the Marshals Service, said: “The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you.”
Chief of the Missing Child Unit Darby Kirby described what it is like to save these children:
“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. 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.”
Read more from Kelli Ballard.