'Out of harm's way': US Marshals Service leads recovery of 27 missing children in Virginia's 'Operation Find Our Children'

Steve Kiggins, USA TODAY
·2 min read

A five-day search in Virginia resulted in the recovery of 27 missing children, the latest in a series of operations led by the U.S. Marshals Service that have reunited hundreds of endangered kids with their legal guardians this year.

More than 60 law enforcement investigators collaborated with the Virginia Department of Social Services, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and a team of medical professionals during Operation Find Our Children, according to news release from the Justice Department.

“I can think of no more critical or satisfying mission for a law enforcement officer than rescuing an endangered child,” Nick E. Proffitt, U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in the release. “This operation brought together a formidable team that was, and is, determined to come to the aid of our youth and bring to justice those among us that choose to prey on these vulnerable children.”

Six other children who had been reported missing were found in the appropriate custody of their legal guardian during the operation, according to the release.

The Virginia mission follows similar operations in Ohio, Georgia, Indiana and other states that have succeeded in taking more than 440 children “out of harm’s way” in 2020, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said in the release.

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The U.S. Marshals last week announced the recovery of 45 missing children, resulting in 179 arrests, during Operation Autumn Hope across Ohio. It was the second such mission in the Buckeye State, after Operation Safety Net, which in August led to the discovery of 25 missing children in less than three weeks.

Also this year, Operation Not Forgotten in Georgia led to the recovery of 39 children in August and Operation Homecoming in September found eight missing children in Indiana.

Since 2005, the U.S. Marshals have recovered more than 2,000 missing children, including a 75% success rate in received cases in the past five years, according to the release.

“We want the missing children across this great nation to know the U.S. Marshals Service will never stop looking for you,” Proffitt said in the release. “We will find you.”

Contributing: Jordan Culver and Jessica Flores, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: US Marshals-led operation locates 27 missing children in Virginia