Philadelphia, PA – During a four-week operation conducted February 15 - March 15, the U.S. Marshals Service Offices in Philadelphia, in conjunction with Philadelphia's Department of Human Services and Bucks County Children Youth Services, participated in operation "Safeguard," a multi-agency enforcement operation focused on human trafficking and the location and recovery of critically missing and exploited children.
During the operation, 26 missing children cases were adopted by the Marshals Service with six of those children having a nexus to child sex trafficking. Over a four-week period, 16 children were recovered at the request of law enforcement to ensure the child's well-being. Four of the 16 children recovered have active child sex trafficking investigations. The operation was supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and other local agencies.
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 Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 enhanced the U.S. Marshals' authority to assist federal, state, and local law enforcement with the recovery of missing, endangered, or abducted children, regardless of whether a fugitive or sex offender was involved. The Marshals established a Missing Child Unit to oversee and manage the implementation of its enhanced authority under the act.
Over the past five years, the U.S. Marshals Service has recovered missing children in 75% of the cases it has received. And of those recovered, 72% were recovered within seven days. Since 2015, the USMS has recovered more than 1,700 missing children.
The U.S. Marshals Eastern District of Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force is composed of a team of law enforcement officers led by Deputy U.S. Marshals in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties.
"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."
This initiative was the culmination of weeks of planning and coordination between the U.S. Marshals Service, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Philadelphia Department of Human Services, Bucks County Children Youth Services, Philadelphia Police Department Human Trafficking Unit, and the FBI.