The five-day law enforcement effort, dubbed “Operation Find Our Children,” was the latest in a series of operations led by the U.S. Marshals Service that helped to reunite hundreds of endangered and missing children with their legal guardians this year.
“The Department of Justice is dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable children in our society and ‘Operation Find Our Children’ does just that,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen in a news release by the DOJ.
More than 60 investigators were part of the primary team led by U.S. Marshals from the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia.
They collaborated with the Virginia Department of Social Services, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and a team of medical professionals.
The operation also confirmed the location of six other children previously reported as missing who were found to be in the custody of their legal guardian, according to the news release.
“I can think of no more critical or satisfying mission for a law enforcement officer than rescuing an endangered child,” said Nick E. Proffitt, U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This operation brought together a formidable team that was, and is, determined to come to the aid of our youth and bring to justice those among us that choose to prey on these vulnerable children.”
Many of the recoveries occurred in Virginia’s larger population centers, the news release said. At least seven occurred in less populous areas, including Roanoke and Abingdon.
While the Virginia mission was the most recent, Rosen said similar operations in Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and Louisiana, and other states have recovered more than 440 kids this year.
"Because of this initiative, the recovered children are now out of harm’s way," he added.
Last week, Ohio Attorney General David Yost announced that U.S. marshals in Ohio rescued 45 missing children and 109 additional human trafficking survivors during "Operation Autumn Hope." He described it as the largest anti-human trafficking effort in state history.
Since 2005, the U.S. Marshals Service has recovered more than 2,000 missing children, according to the DOJ. The agency said it has recovered missing children in 75% of the cases it received over the past five years.
"We want the missing children across this great nation to know the U.S. Marshals Service will never stop looking for you, we will find you," Proffitt added.
Fox News' Peter Aitken and Michael Ruiz contributed to this report