Over a two-week period in August, the US Marshals Service conducted "Operation Not Forgotten," searching for missing kids in the Atlanta metro area. Now, per the agency, nearly 40 kids are known to be in safe hands due to that mission. A USMS release reports that it tracked down 26 missing children, as well as the safe location of 13 others, in 20 counties in the Atlanta and Macon area, arresting nine individuals in the process. The children's ages were said to be between 3 and 17, per ABC News. The kids involved "were considered to be some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area," the USMS release notes, at risk for being victimized by sex trafficking, sexual or physical abuse, child exploitation, medical conditions, and mental health issues.
A regional fugitive unit of the USMS, as well as its missing children's division, worked alongside the nonprofit National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and state and local agencies to locate the children. WSB-TV has the names of those arrested. "When we track down fugitives, it's a good feeling to know that we're putting the bad guy behind bars," the head of the USMS' Missing Child Unit says in a statement, per CBS News. "But that sense of accomplishment is nothing compared to finding a missing child." Donald Washington, the director of the USMS, agrees. "The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you," he says in his own statement. He said in a Thursday presser that a similar mission in Cleveland has turned up 15 children so far. (Read more missing child stories.)