Law enforcement agencies in Georgia say they recovered 20 endangered children, 16 of which are believed to be victims of sex trafficking, the attorney general’s office in Georgia announced Thursday.
The U.S. Marshals Service’s Missing Child Unit, state and local agencies, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children carried out Operation Not Forgotten 2021 over a two-week period in May around Atlanta, Georgia, the attorney general’s office statement said.
A joint operation between the U.S. Marshals and state and local authorities in Georgia recovered 16 suspected victims of child sex trafficking in the metro Atlanta area. “Operation Not Forgotten” recovered 20 endangered missing children in all.
— U.S. Marshals (@USMarshalsHQ) June 25, 2021
“Being embedded throughout the duration of this op allows our prosecutors and investigators to build the strongest possible cases against buyers and traffickers and allows our victim advocate to ensure those rescued get the critical rehabilitative resources that they need,” Attorney General Chris Carr said, according to the statement. (RELATED: Police Operation In North Carolina Recovers More Than 150 Missing Children, Some Involved In Human Trafficking)
— GA AG Chris Carr (@Georgia_AG) June 22, 2021
The multiple law enforcement agencies worked to recover children who were known or suspected victims of child sex trafficking, the statement said. Criminal prosecutions stemming from the operation are also expected, although charges and the number of potential prosecutions was not clarified in the statement.
The operation is the third of its kind. In August 2020, federal, state and local authorities in Georgia rescued 26 children as part of Operation Not Forgotten. Nine criminal associates were arrested, and charges including alleged sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations were filed, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
The children in the August operation were considered among the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the Atlanta and Macon areas in Georgia, according to the statement.
“I strongly believe this model is the most effective example of how we as an agency should be approaching this mission,” U.S. Marshals Missing Child Unit Chief Darby Kirby said in the statement. “Everyone who participated in the op played a vital role in recovering these children.”
In May, police in North Carolina said they recovered more than 150 missing children, some of which became involved in narcotics and human trafficking, as part of “Operation Carolina Homecoming.”