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U.S. Marshals Service locates 49 missing Arizona children

U.S. Marshals Service locates 49 missing Arizona children

U.S. Marshals Service locates 49 missing Arizona children

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The U.S. Marshals Service announced Monday morning that it had safely recovered or located approximately 200 children, nearly a quarter of whom were from Arizona, as part of a six-week nationwide operation dubbed “We Will Find You 2” that aimed to locate missing or abducted children across the country.

The agency said it recovered 123 children and located 77 others who were in a safe environment and did not need to be removed between May 20 and June 24, focusing on areas with high clusters of missing children.

He added that 33 of the children recovered and 16 located safely were from Arizona.

“Deputies are renowned for being the best fugitive hunters, but this was a mission to recover the most vulnerable members of our communities,” Acting U.S. Marshal Van Bayless said in a statement. “Together with our partner agencies, we located and recovered dozens of Arizona children who were victims of abuse, forced addiction, and sex trafficking. This operation highlights the need to step up our efforts to locate more victims and bring their captors to justice.”

The agency said some of the recovered children include a pregnant 16-year-old who ran away from a Glendale group home in March and a 14-year-old girl who disappeared in May after her mother tried to pick her up at a Phoenix mall and couldn’t find her.

The Sheriff’s Service said it worked with numerous Arizona agencies throughout the operation, including Phoenix police, the Pima County Sheriff’s Office and the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

U.S. Marshals Service Director Ronald L. Davis noted that missing children may sometimes be fleeing abusive environments and that it was imperative for the agency to bring recovered children to a safe environment if the environment they originally fled from turned out to be abusive.

“Whenever an environment causes them to flee, I think we at least have a second chance to address those issues if we can locate them and get them into a safe environment, provide them with services and that’s how we can make sure that that child can (live) a productive life and not continue to be victimized or exposed to victimization,” Davis said.

Michelle DeLaune, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said at Monday’s news conference that her organization has a history of helping the U.S. Marshals Service locate missing children and noted that the problem is prevalent across the country.

DuLaune said her organization received more than 36 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation last year, along with nearly 150,000 calls to its 24/7 call center. She noted that about 90% of missing children have run away and are at risk of homelessness and sex trafficking.

DuLaune said the services and treatment that recovered children received were often done on a case-by-case basis, depending on their needs. DuLaune said sheriffs worked with state and local law enforcement agencies to ensure there was a safety net for located children in case they needed shelter or substance abuse treatment.

The agency also located and recovered children in California, Oregon, Michigan, New York, Florida and North Carolina.