U.S. Marshals rescue 14 missing or endangered children in Louisiana
NEW ORLEANS, La. (WAFB) - The U.S. Marshals Service Eastern District of Louisiana New Orleans announced the recovery of 14 missing or endangered children as part of Operation Summer Knights.
Eight people were also arrested.
The investigation was conducted in the New Orleans area between April 30, 2022, and August 31, 2022, and resulted in the rescue of a 13-year-old in Denham Springs.
“I am very proud of the results of Operation Summer Knights and the profound impact it has had on protecting one of the most vulnerable groups in our community,” said Enix Smith, U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “This work could not be accomplished without the support of our federal, state, and local partners agencies involved in safeguarding at-risk children.
Authorities said the 13-year-old ran away on July 10, 2022, and was rescued by the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office two days later in Denham Springs. The teen was believed to have been in contact with an 18-year-old male whom she met on social media.
A 17-year-old male was also among the young people rescued during the investigation. Authorities said he was kidnapped from a home in Jefferson Parish and held for ransom.
U.S. Marshals also rescued a 15-year-old pregnant female who said she was planning on relocating to Texas.
The New Orleans Police Department, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, and several other agencies were also involved in Operation Summer Knights.
“We’re not talking about, say little Billy he’s a teen and he wants a new PlayStation and dad or mom say, no you can’t have a new PlayStation, and the kid runs off for the afternoon. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about children that have possibly been involved with adults, being trafficked or involved in narcotics use, or things like that,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal/PAO Brian Fair, Eastern District of Louisiana.
Fair says they’ve been getting more calls from local law enforcement partners, asking for assistance in searching for missing children that may be endangered.
“They are asking for just our expertise to help and find the kids. It’s time consuming, I mean most people would just think you’d go out there and look for a kid, it’s a lot more than that. I mean it’s a game of hide and seek and they’re not easy to find,” said Fair.
We’re told some of these children that were recovered during this operation were suspected victims of human trafficking.
“I just think it’s getting reported more, there’s a lot more in the news about human trafficking. So people have a lot more concerns, and we’re dealing with an uptick in juvenile crime. So it appears to just be getting reported more. But it definitely seems to be trending upward for us at least,” said Fair.
A new law in Louisiana requires all law enforcement officers employed for one year or more, to get training on how to recognize human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is right under our nose, it’s right in our own hometown, and right in our own backyard. Often times we just don’t know, we can’t recognize that signs, so that’s what our role is,” said Dana hunter, the executive director of the newly formed Louisiana Office of Human Trafficking Prevention.
Hunter says last year in Louisiana there were 921 cases reported of human trafficking.
“In Louisiana, we have what we call suspected and confirmed victims. So a percentage of those victims are confirmed, and there’s a percentage of them that are suspected victims,” she said.
Her office coordinates statewide efforts to prevent human trafficking. And she says, education is the key to stopping it.
“We have not closed our eyes to any business or industry, because everybody needs to be aware of what’s going on with this issue,” said Hunter.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline number is 1-888-373-7888
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