ATLANTA – The U.S. Marshals Service worked with local authorities to rescue 26 missing children and ensure the safe location of 13 others during a two-week operation in Georgia, according to a news release Thursday.
Authorities arrested nine people, many of whom had multiple arrest warrants for charges including sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, drugs and weapons possession.
“The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you,” said Director of the Marshals Service Donald Washington.
The rescued 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,” according to the release.
The youngest child was reportedly just 3 years old, and, while many had been gone for several weeks, one was missing for two years before being rescued.
The U.S. Marshals Service Missing Child Unit worked with the agency’s Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and several state and local agencies to carry out the operation.
“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. “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.”