DALLAS-FORT WORTH, TX – Following a month-long operation focused on recovering missing and/or exploited children in North Texas, the Department of Justice announced that 31 children were safely recovered as a result of the efforts on March 17th.
At least seven of the 31 children were girls rescued from sex trafficking. One was just 13 years old. Two others were 15, three were 16, and one was 17. At least two were found with ties to prostitution.https://t.co/mqewJuGo66
— WJHL (@WJHL11) March 14, 2021
The effort was dubbed as “Operation Missing in the Metroplex”, according to the DOJ, and consisted of federal agencies partnering with law enforcement agencies in Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth and Grand Prairie to locate missing and exploited children.
Both the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals were said to have led the operation while it was ongoing.
Acting U.S. Marshal Quintella Downs-Bradshaw delivered the following comments with regard to the operation’s success:
“To observe law enforcement partnerships and community concerns culminate into such a successful recovery outcome is rewarding. Victims should know they are not forgotten, there is hope and a way to return home.”
A total of 31 children were recovered during the effort, having been reunited with friends, relatives or with legal guardians. At least seven of the children were said to have been girls aged between 13 and 17 that were rescued from sex trafficking scenarios.
According to the DOJ, the agency records over 420,000 reports of missing children every year.
Dallas Police Department Chief of Police Eddie Garcia delivered comments on the operation as well, saying the following:
“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.”
Arlington Chief of Police Al Jones also delivered comments on the operation, noting that the victims recovered are representative of the state’s “most vulnerable” population:
“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 mirrored the sentiments shared by Chief Jones, saying:
“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.”
While the DOJ announced the recovery of said children, the agency didn’t relay whether there were any arrests linked to the operation as of this writing.
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Back in January, we at Law Enforcement Today shared a report detailing a similar operation carried out in California that resulted in 33 children being recovered.
Here’s that previous report.
LOS ANGELES, CA – According to a statement released by the FBI on January 22nd, 2021, a total of 33 missing children – eight of whom were reportedly actively being sexually exploited at the time of their rescue – we’re recovered in Southern California following a joint venture that involved over two dozen law enforcement agencies and non-governmental partners.
Almost three dozen missing children have been recovered in Southern California during a recent operation, the FBI announced. https://t.co/OG3K1Jn4Fd
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) January 23, 2021
In January, which ironically is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the FBI teamed up with the LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (among other agencies) in an effort to locate missing and exploited children.
The operation that successfully recovered these 33 children was reportedly nicknamed “Operation Lost Angels”.
While the FBI did share the news of the successes associated with the operation, not too many details of the operation itself – as in the inner workings, specified agendas of various entities and so forth – have been shared by the FBI.
At least one arrest was enacted via this operation, with an individual facing state level charges under suspicions of human trafficking. Also, this joint venture has reportedly resulted in the opening of numerous investigations related to human trafficking and the ilk.
Multi-Day Joint Agency Operation 'Lost Angels' Leads to the Recovery of 33 Missing Children During Trafficking Awareness Month: Assistant Director in Charge Kristi K. Johnson, of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, announced the results of Operation Los… https://t.co/nbvnJS2El1
— FBI Los Angeles (@FBILosAngeles) January 22, 2021
Apparently two of the victims were recovered “multiple times” in this operation – as they were known as being on the “track”, which is a term often associated with a victim who is being hosted at a place notorious for commercial sex trafficking.
FBI Los Angeles Public Affairs Specialist Laura Eimiller noted in the press release that, unfortunately, victims returning to their abusers is a viscous cycle associated with child sex trafficking:
“It is not uncommon for victims who are rescued to return to commercial sex trafficking either voluntarily or by force, fraud, or coercion.”
“This harmful cycle highlights the challenges victims face and those faced by law enforcement when attempting to keep victims from returning to an abusive situation. Victims may not self-identify as being trafficked or may not even realize they’re being trafficked.”
Some of the other victims that were recovered in this operation are apparently facing charges with respect to various probation violations, robbery, and other misdemeanors – but it’s unclear whether any of these minor victims are going to have their feet held to the proverbial fire.
Once again, the details on these instances are, frankly, limited.
One of the children rescued was apparently the victim of a non-custodial parent kidnapping, from what the FBI detailed on this operation.
Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, Kristi K. Johnson, stated the following about the success of the operation:
“The FBI considers human trafficking modern day slavery and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims.”
“While this operation surged resources over a limited period of time with great success, the FBI and our partners investigate child sex trafficking every day of the year and around the clock.”
LAPD Chief Michael Moore also commented on the continued endeavors law enforcement faces when trying to combat human trafficking in all forms:
“Human trafficking is a pervasive and insidious crime that threatens the safety of our young people, who are the future of our communities.”
“We can only begin to take back the future of our youth with the strong partnerships forged between outstanding service providers and law enforcement.”
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