Nineteen missing children, including a newborn, are safe thanks to a four-month rescue effort led by the U.S. Marshals Service in metro New Orleans, according to federal officials.
The baby boy, who authorities said is less than a month old, was reported missing out of Arkansas, the marshals service said in a news release. He was safely located in New Orleans, as were an additional 20 children who were found or returned home on their own.
Deputy marshals worked with state and local agencies to carry out the months-long operation “This is the Way Home.” The effort, which ran from March 1 to June 30, focused on “missing and endangered runaways” in New Orleans and surrounding parishes, and led to the arrests of at least nine adults, officials said.
Outside Louisiana, missing children were also found in Arkansas, Florida, Texas and Tennessee, according to the news release.
“This was a joint operation with our local, state, and federal partners, and teamwork and information sharing made these results possible,” Scott Illing, U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of Louisiana, said in the statement. “While 19 recoveries may not seem high, this work, which is time consuming, was accomplished while also running our normal day-to-day violent felony offender investigations across 13 parishes.”
Those arrested face criminal charges, including felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.
During their investigation, deputy marshals also rescued a 16-year-old runaway from Tennessee who was wanted on gun, drug and probation violations. That recovery ended in the arrest of 21-year-old Kolby Warren in Slidell, Louisiana.
The operation also led to the seizure of at least seven guns, illegal drugs and more than $17,500 cash, according to authorities.
Since 2015, the agency’s Missing Child Unit has helped find more than 1,800 missing and endangered children, according to the U.S Marshals Service. A sex trafficking sting in Georgia last year led to the rescues of 26 children who ranged in age from 3 to 17 years old, McClatchy News reported.
A similar operation, “Autumn Hope,” in Ohio was one of the state’s largest anti-human trafficking efforts. Forty-five missing children were rescued.