Feds Find 35 Missing Children in Ohio in 'Operation Safety Net'

Dozens of missing children have been found in a swoop by officials who rescued some from the clutches of human traffickers.

A total of 35 youngsters aged 13 to 18 have been tracked and found in one month in Northeast Ohio by the U.S. Marshals Service as part of its "Operation Safety Net Program."

The Marshals teamed up with state and local agencies to recover the children who had all been declared missing and endangered.

United States Marshall Pete Elliot told local media that in some cases, the children were abused and neglected and about a quarter of them were involved in human trafficking.

In a statement to the media, Newburg Heights Police Chief John Majoy said: "We are proud to assist in Operation Safety Net and I commend the United States Marshals Service for their hard work and dedication toward locating these children.

"Many times they do not know they are a victim and this operation offers hope, freedom and safety they would not otherwise have.

"This is a fine example of local, state and federal partners all working together for a notable cause. Together we can all make a difference."

U.S. Marshals "Operation Not Forgotten"
Law enforcement officials are photographed collaborating during “Operation Not Forgotten,” an effort led by the U.S. Marshals Service that successfully located 39 missing children in Georgia last month. According to the U.S. Marshals Service, another operation conducted in northern Ohio in August resulted in officials locating 25 missing children in the area. Shane T. McCoy/US Marshals

Officials said due to the success of this operation, there will now be a permanent Missing Child Unit solely focused on missing, abused, neglected and trafficked juveniles in the 40 counties of Northern Ohio.

U.S. Marshal Elliott said in the statement: "This was new unchartered territory and the first time we conducted an operation like this.

"I am very proud of our law enforcement, community and media partners who worked tirelessly to bring our missing and most vulnerable children to safety.

"The establishment of a permanent unit in Northern Ohio will ensure that our most vulnerable missing children will continue to be found and brought to safety."

35 missing and endangered children, between the ages of 13 and 18, were recovered during Operation Safety Net in the Cleveland, OH. area. More than 20% were tied to human trafficking cases and those cases were referred to the Human Trafficking Task Force in Cuyahoga County.

— U.S. Marshals (@USMarshalsHQ) September 21, 2020

Children were located and recovered in Cleveland, Euclid, Akron, Mansfield, Columbus, Miami, Florida and other cities throughout Ohio, said officials.

Of the 40 missing cases referred to the Marshals Task Force, only five children remain missing.

In the same media statement, Adam Jacobs, president of Bellefaire which works with missing children, added, "The mission of Bellefaire JCB is to help those children and youth who are at the greatest risk. Missing youth are among those who are the most vulnerable. Working with the U.S. Marshal's Office to find and care for missing children, who are so often victims of poverty, abuse and sex trafficking, is just one of the many ways Bellefaire works with our community to fulfill its mission."

The latest rescue mission comes after marshals found 25 children in Ohio last month and a separate operation resulted in the location of 39 missing youngsters in Georgia.