ROANOKE, V.A. (WFXR) – Thanks to a significant law enforcement effort — an effort known as “Operation Find Our Children”– throughout the Commonwealth, the U.S. Marshals in the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia announced Friday the recovery of 33 previously missing children.
According to a statement released by the U.S. Marshals Service on Friday, October 30, the operation was led by Deputy U.S. Marshals from the two federal judicial districts, as well as special agents, police officers, and detectives from numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
More specifically, more than 60 law enforcement investigators formed Operation Find Our Children’s primary team, who were later joined by more than 50 employees from the Virginia Department of Social Services and various medical professions, as well as subject matter experts at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
During one of the recoveries in the Roanoke area, officials say a missing 16-year-old girl was found with two men, who were then arrested. In addition, authorities found evidence of drug trafficking, as well as a loaded pistol in the possession of one of the two men, who turned out to be a convicted felon.
“The U.S. Marshals in the Western District of Virginia have had and will continue to have a sustained focus on recovering missing and endangered children,” Friday’s statement said. “In the past 12 twelve months, the U.S. Marshals investigations in western Virginia have led to the safe recovery of 17 children.”
According to officials, in one of these cases, a 14-year-old girl was reported missing by her family in southwest Virginia. The Deputy Marshals’ investigation reportedly uncovered evidence she was endangered and a human trafficking victim, but thanks to rapid intervention and coordination with partner agencies, she was found safely in Arlington and returned to her family.
“The U.S. Marshals Service has a legendary history of finding fugitives and bringing them to justice,” said Thomas L. Foster, United States Marshal for the Western District of Virginia. “Because of this specialized skill set, finding missing children is a natural extension of the Marshal’s mission. Although many of the 33 recoveries occurred in Virginia’s larger population centers, seven occurred in the Western District of Virginia to include Roanoke and Abingdon. This operation brought missing and exploited children to a place of safety and those who made the decision to prey upon them to justice. We will find you.”
“There is no greater mission for law enforcement than rescuing an endangered child,” Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar of the Western District of Virginia said. “I applaud the United States Marshals in the Western and Eastern Districts of Virginia for their leadership and willingness to leverage their expertise and partner with sister agencies to bring missing children home. We stand ready to investigate and prosecute any leads that come from this important operation.”
“The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was pleased to support the U.S. Marshals Service and the many support organizations that helped find and rescue these children,” said John F. Clark, President and CEO of NCMEC. “Missing children are extremely vulnerable to being trafficked for sex and are at risk of further emotional and physical harm. Because of this operation, 33 children have been found and are now safe.”
Friday’s statement says the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia, the Roanoke City Police Department, and Virginia Department of Social Services provided significant assistance in Operation Find Our Children.