Multiple law agencies combed through north and middle Georgia for two weeks in an attempt to safely recover the kidnapped children. Authorities found 26 endangered children and another 13 missing children.
U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald Washington said that authorities are afraid that the children were already or potentially victims of sex trafficking.
“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,” authorities said. “Other children were located at the request of law enforcement to ensure their wellbeing.”
Nine suspects were arrested and are now in jail while state prosecutors focus on the cases and medical and social workers concentrate on aiding the children.
“One missing child is worth thousands, in my mind, of fugitives that we go out and get,” Washington said.
Other major U.S. cities are pursuing similar operations, though most haven’t yet been completed.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp shared a statement about the raid on Twitter, writing that he and his wife Marty Kemp “applaud the work of law enforcement in ‘Operation Not Forgotten.’ We’ll continue to work around the clock to bring an end to human trafficking and ensure the perpetrators of this evil industry know they have no place in our state.”