Law enforcement officials have successfully recovered dozens of missing children as part of a joint task force operation in West Texas.
The three-week operation, known as "Operation Lost Souls," started in late April in the Texas counties of El Paso, Midland, Ector and Tom Green and recovered 70 children ranging in age from 10 to 17 who were victims of sex trafficking, physical and sexual abuse, according to a press release from the Department of Homeland Security.
"Operation Lost Souls exemplifies Homeland Security Investigations’ commitment to protecting the public from crimes of victimization. In this case, we are looking out for our children — our community’s most precious resource," said HSI El Paso Deputy Special Agent in Charge Taekuk Cho.
"HSI is committed to continue working with our law enforcement partners to locate, recover and help missing children heal, while ensuring that perpetrators are held responsible for these heinous crimes and brought to justice."
The operation was conducted by several law enforcement agencies, including the Texas Highway Patrol, El Paso Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI.
"At the Department of Public Safety, teamwork is one of our core values," said DPS Major Matthew Mull. "We are grateful for all of our law enforcement partners who participated in this operation and who work around the clock every day to protect our communities, including our youth."
HSI added that several agencies have provided counseling to the children.
Authorities say that the children who were located outside of West Texas were found in Dallas, Texas; Colorado; and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Federal law enforcement teams have successfully rescued missing children in operations across the country over the last few years, including in January 2021, when the FBI announced it located 33 children in the Los Angeles area.
U.S. marshals in Ohio rescued 45 missing children and 109 additional human trafficking survivors during "Operation Autumn Hope" in October 2020.