The US Marshals Service has found 35 missing children in Northeast Ohio in one month during its Operation Safety Net program.
The Marshals said in a news release that they partnered with state and local agencies to find and recover the kids – all between the ages of 13 and 18 and considered missing and endangered – during the operation.
United States Marshal Pete Elliott told Fox 8 that in some cases, the children were abused and neglected and about a quarter of them were involved in human trafficking or prostitution.
A US Marshals task force has recovered 35 of 40 missing children in Northeast Ohio within one month of searching for them. The children had been missing anywhere from days to years
The agency said about 20 per cent of the 35 found children’s cases were tied to human trafficking and those particular cases have now been referred over to Ohio’s Cuyahoga County Human Trafficking Task Force.
The children were found all over the state, including cities Akron, Cleveland, Euclid, Columbus and Mansfield. At least one child was found as far away as Miami, Florida.
The children had been missing for anywhere from a few days to months or years.
he 35 children found were among the 40 cases that had been referred to Marshals Task Force.
United States Marshal Pete Elliott said that the task force’s results have led to the creation of a permanent Missing Child Unit through the 40 counties of Northern Ohio
The Marshals will continue to search for the remaining five children whose cases are still open, the agency said.
Those Ohio children are: Leantwana Bates, 17, and Yalonda Bates, 15, both of Youngstown; Ja-Niva Scott-Lee, 16, of Cleveland; Alicia Jackson, 16, of Berea, and Isaac Ortiz, 16, of Lorain.
The agency said that they will also continue to search for other missing children.
Before Operation Safety Net began, there were about 200 missing children in Cuyahoga County.
The agency said that in light of the task force’s results, the Marshals for the Northern District of Ohio have created a permanent Missing Child Unit throughout the 40 counties of Northern Ohio.
They task force will focus specifically on missing, abused, neglected and trafficked children.
The Marshals are still looking for five other missing children, including Leantwana Bates, 17, and Yalonda Bates, 15, both of Youngstown, Ohio
Two other missing children that the task force is seeking help with finding are Alicia Jackson, 16 (left), of Berea, Ohio, and Ja-Niva Scott-Lee, 16 (right), of Cleveland, Ohio
The task force is also searching for Issac Ortiz, 16, of Lorain. There were 200 missing children in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County before Operation Safety Net began
Elliott said in a statement that ‘This was new unchartered territory and the first time we conducted an operation like this.’
He went on to say that the new task force would ensure that ‘our most vulnerable missing children will continue to be found and brought to safety.’
Elliott said that the Marshals were assisted with their searches by law enforcement, community and media partners, who highlighted the names and faces of the missing children.
In late August, Elliott told WOIO that, although hard to believe, missing children sometimes ran away to situations that ‘may be better than the situations they left from,’ Elliott said.
‘We’ve had some cases where the mother and or father, or both, may have been prostituting their own child.’
He added that ‘A number of these children have gone to the hospital after we’ve recovered them to get checked out, so again this is something we take very seriously.’
Some of the children found were put in the custody of the county’s children’s services department.
A similar Marshals task force – Operation Not Forgotten – that took place in Georgia over two-weeks in August rescued 26 children, found the safe location of 13 children and arrested nine criminal associates.
Meanwhile, a 60-day Marshals-led task force in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, resulted in the recover of five missing children.
Operation Triple Beam began July 6 and led to the arrest of 262 people, including 141 confirmed gang members and six murder suspects.
Two of the gang members were accused of kidnapping their own children from a day care center.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the five Operation Safety Net children the US Marshals are still looking for is asked to call the agency at 866-492-6833.