U.S. Marshals in southern Ohio and southern West Virginia have found 45 missing children and arrested 179 people in connection with human trafficking.
In a press release sent out Monday, the U.S. Marshals Service announced that operation “Autumn Hope” had been successful in recovering the 45 missing children as part of a multi-agency collaboration to combat human trafficking and find missing and exploited children:
“During the month of October, the U.S. Marshals Service Offices in Southern Ohio and Southern West Virginia, in conjunction with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force participated in operation ‘Autumn Hope.’ Operation Autumn Hope was a multi-agency enforcement operation focused on human trafficking and the location and recovery of missing and exploited children. During the operation 45 missing children were recovered by the U.S. Marshals and 179 arrests were made by the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force. In addition, 20 children were located per the request of law enforcement to ensure the child’s well-being. The operation was supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and Ohio state and local agencies,” the agency said.
More from the U.S. Marshals:
During one of the missing child recoveries, a loaded gun was recovered. The 15-year old male juvenile had two warrants and is suspected in multiple shootings and a homicide.
Another case involved a high-risk 15-year old girl who was missing from Cleveland. Information developed from that recovery linked her and other possible victims to an individual in Columbus suspected of human trafficking.
An additional recovery of two juveniles occurred when the USMS Southern Ohio task force forwarded information to Marshals in West Virginia. A recovery of the missing juveniles occurred on a traffic stop after the W.V. State Patrol was informed to be on the lookout for the adult male and the vehicle he was driving. The adult male was charged with concealment/removal of a minor child in Jackson County, WV.
During the operation the Lancaster Police Department requested assistance in locating a 14-year-old girl who was reported missing in the middle of the night. The girl was recovered in Columbus by the U.S. Marshals within six hours of being reported missing.
“My thanks to all personnel who have stepped up for this operation,” said Peter C. Tobin, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio. “These are the same personnel who hunt down violent fugitives every day. I’m incredibly proud of them and pleased that they were able to apply those same skills to finding missing children. I know Operation Autumn Hope has made a difference in a lot of young lives.”
The U.S. Marshals Service has recovered more than 2,000 missing children since 2005. In just the past five years, it has located children in 75% of cases it has received, two-thirds of whom were found within seven days.
The New York Post reported that the U.S. Marshals have recovered more children in the past few months:
Last month, they said 35 missing children, between the ages of 13 and 18 from the Cuyahoga County area, were located during Operation Safety Net. Just over 20 percent of the found cases were tied to human trafficking.
That same month, the marshals also announced the arrest of 262 suspects, including 141 gang members, and the recovery of five missing children in Oklahoma.
Thirty-nine children were found in Georgia during Operation Not Forgotten in August and eight missing kids were recovered in Indiana in September as part of Operation Homecoming.