LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The U.S. Marshals Service announced Wednesday that it has recovered 13 endangered missing children, including runaways and those abducted by non-custodial persons, in the Southland in an operation that ran from March 1 to May 15.
The multi-agency operation called We Will Find You is the first nationwide missing child operation focused on geographical areas with high clusters of critically missing children, according to the USMS.
“We will continue to make the recovery of critically-missing children our top priority,” U.S. Marshal David Singer of the Central District of California said in a statement.
“Our main focus is to raise awareness to deter child exploitation and work with our law enforcement partners to locate and recover endangered missing children.”
Among the recoveries in the Los Angeles area were:
— a 16-year-old female who had run away in December 2022 and was a possible victim of human trafficking. She was recovered in Long Beach on March 9;
— a 16-year-old female who had run away on March 11 and was a possible victim of human trafficking. She was safely recovered prior to boarding in Greyhound bus in Los Angeles on March 31;
— a 16-year-old female who had run away on Jan. 20 and was a possible victim of human trafficking. She was safely found in the Lancaster area on April 6; and
— a 16-year-old female who had run away in February and was a possible victim of human trafficking. She was found in the Lancaster area on April 11.
Operation WWFY resulted in the recovery of 169 children and the safe location of 56 children nationwide, according to the agency. During the operation, the USMS referred 28 cases to law enforcement agencies for further investigation of crimes such as drugs and weapons, sex trafficking, and sex offender violations.
Law enforcement reported allegations of trafficking in over 40 cases the USMS assisted with. Of the cases closed, 86% were endangered runaways, nearly 9% were family abductions, and 5% were considered otherwise missing. The youngest child recovered was six months old, according to the USMS.
The Southland operation was conducted in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.