COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The U.S. Marshals Service Offices in Southern Ohio and Southern West Virginia announced that 45 missing children have been recovered as part of an anti-human trafficking operation.
Operation “Autumn Hope” was a multi-agency enforcement operation focused on human trafficking and the location and recovery of missing and exploited children.
During the operation, 45 missing children were recovered, and 169 arrests were made by the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and U.S. Marshals in conjunction with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Twenty children were also located per the request of law enforcement to ensure the child’s well-being.
The U.S. Marshals office says during one of the missing child recoveries, a loaded gun was recovered. The 15-year-old male juvenile had two warrants and is suspected in multiple shootings and a homicide.
Another case involved a high-risk 15-year-old girl who was missing from Cleveland. Information developed from that recovery linked her and other possible victims to an individual in Columbus suspected of human trafficking.
During the operation, the Lancaster Police Department requested help in finding a 14-year-old girl who was reported missing in the middle of the night. The girl was recovered in Columbus by the U.S. Marshals within six hours of being reported missing.
An additional recovery of two juveniles occurred when the USMS Southern Ohio task force forwarded information to Marshals in West Virginia. The recovery occurred during a traffic stop after the W.V. State Patrol was told to be on the lookout for a man identified as a suspect and the vehicle he was driving. The man was charged with concealment/removal of a minor child in Jackson County, WV.
“My thanks to all personnel who have stepped up for this operation,” said Peter C. Tobin, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio. “These are the same personnel who hunt down violent fugitives every day. I’m incredibly proud of them and pleased that they were able to apply those same skills to finding missing children. I know Operation Autumn Hope has made a difference in a lot of young lives.”
Over the past five years, the USMS says it has recovered missing children in 75% of the cases it has received.