35 missing children rescued during ‘Operation Safety Net’

Published: September 21, 2020 4:47 PM EDT
Updated: September 22, 2020 1:00 PM EDT

A joint effort over the past month between Ohio authorities and federal law enforcement agencies resulted in the recovery of 35 missing children, the U.S. Marshals Service said Monday.

It was part of a month-long initiative called “Operation Safety Net,” a nationwide law enforcement operation that aimed to find missing and endangered children.

The kids ranged in age from 13 to 18 and some of them were tied to human trafficking.

Authorities previously found 25 children during the operation, some of them in Miami.

There are still five open cases remaining.

WINK News Safety and Security Specialist Rich Kolko said it takes the marshals’ expertise in tracking down fugitives for huge operations like this to be successful in finding missing kids.

When the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act was signed in 2015, it gave the marshals authority to conduct these investigations, and Operation Safety Net happened throughout the country over the last few weeks, locating dozens of kids.

It’s still a problem in Florida.

“It’s a very big problem still in Southwest Florida, unfortunately, because we have three kinds of slavery here: indentured servitude in the fields, sex slavery, as well as indentured servitude in the homes,” said former federal prosecutor Douglas Molloy. “There are three different kinds of slavery and they are all here in Southwest Florida.”

What’s next for the victims? Kolko said some of the kids will be given medical checkups and some of them will be returned to their families. Sometimes, the investigation will discover that the circumstances or homes the kids left turn out to be worse than the one they may have been found and rescued from.

If you have information on someone who may be a victim, reach out to the U.S. Marshals or other law enforcement.

RESOURCES
Southwest Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking
Florida Statewide Council on Human Trafficking