Federal, state and local authorities in northeastern Ohio have concluded “Operation Safety Net,” recovering 35 of 40 missing teenagers from the Cuyahoga County area and prompting the creation of a permanent Missing Child Unit.
The month-long joint operation by the U.S. Marshals Service, the Cleveland Division of Police, East Cleveland Police, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office and Newburgh Heights police located and recovered the minors, ranging in age from 13 to 18, and determined slightly more than 20% of the disappearances were tied to human trafficking, WJW reported.
According to a news release issued by the U.S. Marshals Service, only five cases referred to “Operation Safety Net” remain open, and the cases linked to human trafficking have been referred to a human trafficking task force in Cuyahoga County. The five open cases will be worked until the children are located, the release stated.
In addition, the U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio has created – based on the operation’s success – a permanent Missing Child Unit throughout the region’s 40 counties to focus on “missing, abused, neglected and trafficked juveniles,” the release stated.
“This was new, unchartered territory, and the first time we conducted an operation like this. I am very proud of our law enforcement, community and media partners who worked tirelessly to bring our missing and most vulnerable children to safety. The establishment of a permanent unit in Northern Ohio will ensure that our most vulnerable missing children will continue to be found and brought to safety,” U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott stated.
The missing children were recovered in the Ohio cities of Cleveland, Euclid, Akron, Mansfield and Columbus as well as Miami, Florida, WJW reported.
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