The U.S. Marshals Service and Homeland Security Investigations teamed up with four police departments in Texas for "Operation Missing in the Metroplex" to crack down on human trafficking. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas announced on Wednesday that 31 missing children from the Dallas-Fort Worth area were recovered during the monthlong operation.
The missing and exploited children were located by the federal agencies with the assistance of the Arlington Police Department, the Dallas Police Department, the Fort Worth Police Department, and the Grand Prairie Police Department.
At least seven of the 31 children were underage girls, who had "ties to sex trafficking." Two of the female minors were recovered during prostitution stings, according to the Department of Justice.
"To observe law enforcement partnerships and community concerns culminate into such a successful recovery outcome is rewarding," said acting United States Marshal Quintella Downs-Bradshaw. "Victims should know they are not forgotten, there is hope and a way to return home."
"While this joint operation lasted approximately 30 days, HSI Dallas will continue working relentlessly to identify and recover missing children who become vulnerable to human traffickers across the North Texas region," noted HSI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Spradlin. "Our continued collaboration with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners and non-governmental organizations is vital to combatting this global epidemic."
Dallas Police Department Chief of Police Eddie Garcia added, "We are grateful to be a part of a coalition of extraordinary law enforcement agencies who were dedicated in reuniting these children with their loved ones. It is our hope that each of them will be able to put this traumatic experience behind them and move forward to have a happy and productive life."
"We will continue to work with local, state, and federal partners to identify and rescue missing children," said Arlington Chief of Police Al Jones. "These kids and teens represent some of our most vulnerable populations where adults try to prey on their innocence. We will not rest until every child is located safe and someone is held accountable."
Fort Worth Police Department Chief Neil Noakes stated, "It is imperative that we continue to work with our partners to protect the most vulnerable members of our community, our children. We value our state and federal partnerships and were honored to be included as part of 'Operation Missing in the Metroplex.' We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partnerships in locating missing children and reuniting them with their families. Human trafficking is a serious issue and we will not rest until our most vulnerable population are safe."
In recent months, there have been several successful campaigns by the U.S. Marshals Service and local police to recover missing and endangered children.
"Operation Volunteer Strong" was a joint mission by the Marshals, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Children's Service that rescued 150 missing children in Tennessee earlier this month.
Last month, "Operation Broken Hearts" ended with 37 people being apprehended in the Phoenix area for alleged child sex crimes and human trafficking.
In January, which was National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, "Operation Reclaim & Rebuild" resulted in the arrests of 64 people for alleged sex crimes in Riverside, California.
Also in January, multi-agency "Operation Lost Angels" led to the rescue of 33 missing children in California.
In November, U.S. Marshals located 27 missing children in Virginia during "Operation Find Our Children."
In October, U.S. Marshals announced the recovery of 45 endangered children, plus the arrests of 178 suspects in Ohio and West Virginia during "Operation Autumn Hope."
The U.S. Marshals Service found 11 missing New Orleans children in October, two of whom were said to be in "extreme danger."
In September, 35 missing children were recovered in Ohio by U.S. Marshals in "Operation Safety Net."
Marshals announced in September that eight "highly endangered" missing children were rescued during "Operation Homecoming" in Indiana.
In August, "Operation Not Forgotten" resulted in the discovery of 39 missing children in Florida and Georgia. Law enforcement said 15 of the missing kids were victims of sex trafficking.