"Operation Safeguard," led by the U.S. Marshals Service Offices in Philadelphia, Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services, and Bucks County Children Youth Service, was an "enforcement operation focused on human trafficking and the location and recovery of critically missing and exploited children," that ran from February 15 through March 15, according to a federal press release.
The operation focused on 26 missing-child cases in the area, with six of them believed to be related to child sex trafficking, the marshals' service said.
Over four weeks, 16 children were "recovered at the request of law enforcement to ensure the child's well-being," and four of the recovered children were confirmed to be related to sex trafficking, authorities said.
"These missing children were considered to be some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area, based on indications of high-risk factors such as victimization of child sex trafficking, child exploitation, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and medical or mental health conditions," the release said.
The release did not specify how many of the children were found in Philadelphia, Bucks County, and nearby areas but according to LevittownNow, authorities told the news outlet at least two missing kids from Bucks County were located during the operation.
One was reportedly found in the Levittown area and one in New Jersey, the news outlet reports.
“I applaud the exceptional cooperation among our respective agencies in combating this most abhorrent affront to society,” said Eric Gartner, U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
“Our hope is for a better future for the 16 children we recovered; our resolve remains steadfast in finding other children in peril.”
The operation was conducted with coordination between the USMS, NCMEC, Philadelphia Department of Human Services, Bucks County Children Youth Services, Philadelphia Police Department Human Trafficking Unit, and the FBI.
Since 2015, the U.S Marshals Service has recovered more than 1,700 missing children, the release said.
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