200 missing children found during Operation We Will Find You II

U.S. Marshals and federal, local and state agencies found 200 missing children during a nationwide operation. (DOJ Office of Public Affairs)
U.S. Marshals Find 200 Missing Children nationwide

Office of Public Affairs 

The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), along with federal, state, and local agencies in seven federal judicial districts and geographical locations across the United States, led a six-week national operation that resulted in finding 200 critically missing children, which includes endangered runaways and those abducted by noncustodial persons.

Operation We Will Find You 2 (OWWFY2), the second-of-its-kind nationwide missing child operation, was conducted from May 20 to June 24 and focused on geographical areas with high clusters of critically missing children. Children who go missing may be in serious danger and can be vulnerable to child sex trafficking, abuse, exploitation, and other crimes against children.

U.S. Marshals and federal, local and state agencies found 200 missing children during a nationwide operation. (DOJ Office of Public Affairs)

With technical assistance from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), OWWFY2 resulted in the recovery and removal of 123 children from dangerous situations. An additional 77 missing children were located and found to be in safe locations, according to law enforcement or child welfare agencies. Of the 200 children found, 173 were endangered runaways, 25 were considered otherwise missing, one was a family abduction, and one was a non-family abduction. The youngest child recovered was five months old. 14 of the children were found outside the city where they went missing. Additionally, of the missing children recovered, 57% were recovered within seven days of the USMS assisting with the case.

U.S. Marshals and federal, local and state agencies found 200 missing children during a nationwide operation. (DOJ Office of Public Affairs)

“There are no words to describe the terror felt by missing children, their families, and their communities,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “I am grateful to the dedicated professionals of the U.S. Marshals Service and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children who worked to find 200 critically missing children during this six-week operation, and who work every day to keep children safe.”

“One of the most sacred missions of U.S. Marshals Service is locating and recovering our nation’s critically missing children,” said USMS Director Ronald L. Davis. “This is one of our top priorities as there remain thousands of children still missing and at risk.”

“Operation We Will Find You is a shining example of the results we can achieve when we unite in our mission to find missing children,” said President and CEO Michelle DeLaune of NCMEC. “We are grateful that vulnerable children have been recovered as part of this operation, and we commend the U.S. Marshals Service and all the agencies involved for their commitment to protect youth and ensure these children are not forgotten. Behind every statistic, there is a child who deserves to grow up safe from harm.”

The operation was conducted from the following locations: District of Arizona (Phoenix, Glendale, Goodyear, Tucson, South Tucson, and Pima counties); Eastern District of California (San Joaquin County, Stockton, and Sacramento County); Southern District of Florida (Broward, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties); Western District of Michigan (Kent, Lake, Ingham, and Ottawa counties); Eastern District of North Carolina (New Hanover, Brunswick, Harnett, Onslow, Pitt, Wake, Johnston, Robeson, Cumberland, Sampson, Nash, and Pender counties); Southern and Eastern Districts of New York (New York City); and District of Oregon (Multnomah, Washington, and Deschutes counties, as well as Portland and Eugene, and the Warm Springs Reservation).

The goal of OWWFY2 was to highlight partnerships amongst government and non-government agencies to develop a multi-disciplinary team whose focus was to pull together resources to find critically missing children and to bring more attention to the epidemic of missing children in America. During the operation, the USMS worked with their respective federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, NCMEC, the Department of Children and Family Services, and other agencies to safely find missing children at risk of endangerment. These missing children were considered some of the most 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. In addition, other children who had been reported missing were located at the request of law enforcement to ensure they were safe and to confirm the child’s location.

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 enhanced the USMS’ authority to assist law enforcement with recovering endangered missing children, regardless of whether a fugitive or sex offender was involved. The USMS established a Missing Child Unit to oversee and manage the implementation of its enhanced authority under the Act. Members of the USMS Sex Offender Investigations Branch, Behavioral Analysis Unit, and Missing Child Unit began training personnel in the participating locations months before the operation to ensure that case selection, vetting, and all pre-operational requirements were met.

Operation We Will Find You Links:

Significant Recoveries:

Western District of Michigan:

On Jan. 11, a 16-year-old female child was reported missing from her home in Edwardsburg, Michigan, by her legal guardian. Information obtained through interviews showed the child was likely with a 30-year-old adult male somewhere in the state of Indiana.  The investigation showed the child was likely being controlled and abused by the adult male.  During the investigation, operation personnel learned information that the child had either attempted to get away from the adult male multiple times or the child wanted to do so. The child was in a difficult and dangerous situation, especially since she had traveled across state lines and was now in a new state, a long distance from where she was first reported missing. The adult male had recent photos of cash and firearms on his social media profile, including one photo where the adult male is apparently pointing a handgun with an extended magazine at the missing child.  USMS identified multiple warrants for the adult male from multiple states, including Michigan.  The USMS determined a likely location for the adult male and the child in Indiana.  A collateral lead request was sent by the Western District of Michigan to the Northern District of Indiana and the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force.  On June 13, USMS personnel attempted to arrest the adult male and recover the child at an apartment in Hammond, Indiana.  The adult male jumped out of a window and attempted to flee the area—but was apprehended by a Police K-9 before his eventual arrest.  USMS personnel located the child safely inside the apartment and released her to child protective services.

Southern District of Florida:

On May 13, a 15-year-old female was reported missing by her legal guardian. Information indicated that she might be staying at other people’s houses or sleeping in parks in Miami-Dade, Florida. During the investigation, it was discovered the child had become a victim of human trafficking in the Miami-Dade area. On June 7, personnel from the U.S. Marshals Service, in collaboration with detectives from the Miami Police Department, located the child in an apartment complex in Miami-Dade after an extensive investigative search throughout the city. Upon being recovered, she was debriefed by Florida State Attorney’s Office Human Trafficking personnel and subsequently returned to the Florida Department of Child and Family Services custody.

District of Arizona:

On April 16, a 16-year-old was reported missing after she ran away from her group home in Phoenix. The female has a history of being sex trafficked. The investigation revealed the child was in Los Angeles, possibly being sex trafficked. The suspected trafficker was murdered in Los Angeles on May 25. The child told a family member she was going on vacation to Miami but when she got there her new “trafficker” dropped her off at the beach and told her to make money. On June 11, the child was located by USMS in Flint, Michigan, in a hotel, and was taken into custody on an outstanding arrest warrant for a probation violation. Her male associate was arrested on local charges for driving without a license and insurance. An additional 20-year-old female was identified in the hotel. The suspected trafficking case was referred to Homeland Security Investigations and they will continue to investigate the case.

New York/New Jersey Regional Task Force:

On Nov. 3, 2023, a 16-year-old female was reported in the National Crime Information Center as missing from New York City, New York Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), and was a prior victim of human trafficking. On May 1, 2024, the New York City Police Department Missing Persons Unit (NYPD MPU) requested USMS assistance in recovering the missing child. On June 3, New York USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force Members executed two arrest warrants for a 27-year-old male who was the primary subject of an ongoing investigation into the whereabouts of the missing minor who was being sexually exploited by the adult male. Upon execution of the warrant, the child was found in the male’s bedroom, and evidence of sexual exploitation was found at the premise. The child was placed in the care of ACS and transported to the hospital for medical treatment.

Eastern District of North Carolina:

On April 29, a one-year-old was reported missing to the Raleigh, North Carolina, Police Department (RPD), after her mother neglected to surrender her to the Department of Social Services (DSS). The RPD requested assistance from the USMS in finding the missing child. The child’s mother was previously convicted for her actions in the strangulation, assault, and death of one of her children, a four-year-old boy. Additionally, she was wanted on a felony probation violation pertaining to the original charge of cruelty toward a child. On May 15, USMS personnel and RPD personnel arrested the child’s mother without incident in Raleigh. The missing one-year-old was subsequently safely recovered in Raleigh by USMS investigators and handed over to DSS custody.

Eastern District of California:

On Oct. 26, 2023, a 17-year-old female was reported missing by her legal guardian. Information obtained revealed that she was likely staying with her older adult sister who was a known prostitute. The child’s older sister was recently arrested and on pretrial release for Human Trafficking, Pimping, and Pandering. On May 30, USMS personnel determined that the child and her adult sister were staying at a known prostitution and trafficking motel in Oakland, California. USMS personnel from the Eastern District of California coordinated with USMS personnel in the Northern District of California to establish a location for the child and her sister. Management at the hotel confirmed that both sisters had two rooms and had been staying there for some time with an unknown adult male. At one point, USMS observed the three individuals leave the rooms and begin packing their car. Once inside the vehicle, the USMS was able to safely move in and detain all three individuals. The child was then turned over to authorities.

District of Oregon

On May 21, a 12-year-old female went missing from her family home in Portland, Oregon, and had reported allegations of sexual abuse by family members. Law enforcement officers contacted the child through her cell, and she agreed to meet them at a grocery store in the Portland area. The officers received a call back from the child and a friend stating that her father was trying to pull her into his car, and she was scared. USMS investigators were able to intervene and separate the endangered child from her father. The child told law enforcement that she had been raped by two Hispanic males and that her father touched her inappropriately. On May 24, the child was safely recovered and placed in a foster home while the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) investigated the allegations. Within 24 hours of being placed in foster care, the foster family kicked the child out of their home. The child then called a Deputy U.S. Marshal (DUSM) that had built rapport with her to ask for assistance. The DUSM subsequently contacted DHS to report the incident. As a result, DHS placed the child in a state-run shelter.

Additional information about the USMS can be found at www.usmarshals.gov.

Updated July 1, 2024

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