SAN ANTONIO – A nationwide operation to find missing children is hitting close to home.
U.S. Marshals announced Wednesday they found or recovered 225 endangered missing children during a coordinated 10-week effort with multiple law enforcement agencies. More than two dozen of those missing children cases were from the San Antonio and surrounding areas.
“Operation We Will Find You” included the US Marshals Service, along with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and state and local agencies in 16 federal judicial districts and 15 geographical locations across the U.S.
It was the first nationwide missing child operation focused on geographical areas with high clusters of critically missing children, with the San Antonio area being one of those locations. The operation as a whole resulted in the recovery of 169 children and the safe location of 56 children.
“The typical age group that we were focusing on was that 12 to 13 up to 17 to 18 years old until they age out of with the state of being a child,” said Tim Anderson, Supervisory Deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service in San Antonio.
The children found included runaways and those abducted by non-custodial persons. Many of these children were considered to be in dangerous situations and one of the most vulnerable young populations.
“The drugs, the gangs, human trafficking and are pretty much the big ones,” said Anderson. “They run away and they’re out on their own or they’re running with somebody else, it’s just who do they come across and what are they exposed to?”
The operation ran from March 1 to May 15. The Western District of Texas San Antonio Division combined for a total of recovery and location of 30 children.
U.S. Marshal Service said that was the third-most in the country among the locations that were part of the operation. A total of 22 missing endangered children were found in the San Antonio and surrounding area, five outside Bexar County and three in Mexico.
“We want to make sure that families in this area understand that if they have a missing child, we have a role in helping those families, helping this community be safe,” said Susan Pamerleau, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas.
Pamerleau added that U.S. Marshals and participating law enforcement agencies are now working with the Dept. of Family and Protective Services to get the proper guardianship for these children.
“Hopefully the next step is that these children are back in situations where they can grow, they can develop and have a productive life,” said Pamerleau.
During the operation, the USMS referred 28 cases to law enforcement agencies for further investigation of crimes such as drugs and weapons, sex trafficking, and sex offender violations, according to a press release.
Law enforcement reported allegations of trafficking in over 40 cases the USMS assisted with, the release stated.
“Operation We Will Find You” is a partnership of law enforcement agencies, working together in the communities they serve to recover the most vulnerable children. This is a partnership that positively shapes outcomes, demonstrating value and gaining the public’s trust”, Pamerleau said in the release.