U.S. Marshals have launched Operation Safety Net in Ohio to find around 200 missing children who they believe are suffering sex trafficking, neglect, and abuse.
25 children have been rescued since the operation started two weeks ago.
US Marshal Pete Elliot said: “These are kids that have been abused, neglected. Some involved in human trafficking.”
In an interview with local news station WOIO, Elliot said that many of the children had suffered intense trauma since they were born.
“Sometimes the situations they go to, believe it or not, may be better than the situations they left from,” Elliot said.
“We’ve had some cases where the mother and or father, or both, may have been prostituting their own child,” he added.
Their team was working with Newburgh Heights and Cleveland, East Cleveland police departments.
The missing children they had found were aged between 13 and 18, and one in four children were victims of human trafficking.
Elliot told WOIO that 350 people from 125 departments across the state were involved in the search.
“We’re trying to do our part. A number of these children have gone to the hospital after we’ve recovered them to get checked out, so again this is something we take very seriously,” Elliot said.
“I’ll tell you this, it will be something we’ll be doing every year.
“This is our first time we have done this, it’s been uncharted territory for us, but we’ve had great success.”
In Georgia, a similar operation called ‘Operation Not Forgotten’ has seen 39 missing children rescued.
According to the center, many of those recovered were found with a parent, had fled juvenile justice, had gone missing from child services, or kidnapped by a parent.
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