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The number of missing children rescued annually has more than doubled since 2016, according to data from the U.S. Marshals Service.
In 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service rescued 172 missing children. The following years, the number of rescued children rose to 192, 253 and 292. And as of September 24th, the U.S. Marshals Service had rescued 375 children in fiscal year 2020.
This brings the total to “about 1,300,” according to U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald Washington.
Speaking on Fox Business Network’s “The Evening Edit” this Thursday, he said most of the country’s missing children are tied up in dangerous circumstances involving violence and drugs.
“[T]hese are kids that are in particular danger as a result of either being victims of violent crime or because of who they are. For example, some of them may be in the middle of gang affiliations or in the midst of drug abusers or in the middle of some bad situations involving people who have violent tendencies and things of that sort,” he said.
“There are a lot of them in the country at any given time. For example, today I looked at the number, and we have 21,000 active missing persons under 18 cases open today. So there are a lot of them.”
According to Washington, roughly 285,000 children have been reported missing this year, meaning that combined there are likely “somewhere between 350 and 400,000” missing children total throughout all 50 states.
Thanks to the agency’s work, however, there are about “1,300” fewer cases today.
One of the agency’s latest operations, “Operation Not Forgotten,” led to the rescue of 26 missing children in Georgia just two months ago.
Today, Attorney General William Barr provided an update on Operation Not Forgotten.
In Georgia, 26 children were rescued from human trafficking and another 13 missing children were safely located over a two-week period.
These operations will continue in 6 additional cities. pic.twitter.com/LMBHE7B2W0
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 21, 2020
“‘Operation Not Forgotten’ resulted in the rescue of 26 children, the safe location of 13 children and the arrest of nine criminal associates,” the agency announced in a press release published on Aug. 27th.
“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 youngest child rescued was only three, according to Washington.
“They come from families like yours and mine. These are by and large runaways who may or may not have some issue that they’re trying to fight,” he said on FBN.
“Their age group is typically anywhere from six to seventeen, so obviously the younger children are more taken from their families than running away from their families. For example, in operation not forgotten the youngest child was three years old.”
Another one of the agency’s latest operations, “Operation Safety Net,” concluded in late September and led to the rescue of 35 children.
“35 missing and endangered children, between the ages of 13 and 18, were recovered during the operation. A little more than 20% were tied to human trafficking cases and those cases were referred to the Human Trafficking Task Force in Cuyahoga County,” the agency announced at the time.
“Of the 40 missing cases referred to the Marshals Task Force only 5 cases remain open. Members of the task force and its local partners will continue to work over the next several weeks to bring these 5 remaining children and other children to safety.”
Listen to Washington’s remarks below:
Not everybody arrested during these operations is guilty of sex crimes.
Take Trevontae Shareef, a 21-year-old black man who didn’t realize that his 17-year-old girlfriend was a runaway from a state foster care until federal authorities barged into his mother’s home in early August and arrested both him and his mother’s fiancé during “Operation Not Forgotten.”
“Neighbors watched from their lawns as officers brought Shareef and his mother’s fiancé, Kirk Waters, outside and handcuffed them,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes.
“Three weeks later, both of their names would be included among the arrests made during the U.S. Marshals Service’s ‘Operation Not Forgotten,’ described as a two-week joint law enforcement effort that located 39 missing and endangered children, ages 3 to 17, and involved the arrest of nine ‘criminal associates.'”
Shareef has since reportedly faced harassment from people who mistakenly believe he was one of those arrested for sex trafficking.
“He and his mother told the AJC that angry people have been pulling up to their house, accusing him of sex trafficking or sexually abusing a 3-year-old. One group brandished guns and challenged Shareef to step outside and fight,” AJC notes.
The man who actually abused the 3-year-old was her father, James Garcia, “who was charged with aggravated child molestation and incest involving [his] older daughter,” according to the paper.
In a statement to AJC, U.S. Marshals public affairs specialist Dave Oney defended the operation and the agency’s accurate reporting and pointed to the media’s “sensationally” written headlines to explain the confusion surrounding Shareef.
“People read headlines, and the headlines are written sensationally, so they don’t read into the last three or four paragraphs of the story anymore,” he said.