CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – The U.S. Marshals Service in the Southern Districts of West Virginia and Ohio recently conducted Operation Autumn Hope, a multi-agency enforcement operation focused on human trafficking and the location and recovery of missing and exploited children. During the operation, 45 missing children were recovered, with 13 of the children recovered as a result of the efforts of the U.S. Marshals Service in the Southern District of West Virginia (SDWV), in conjunction with the Cops United Felony Fugitive Enforcement Division (CUFFED) Task Force. The CUFFED task force is comprised of the West Virginia Department of Corrections, the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the Roane County Sheriff’s Office, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office, the Princeton Police Department, the Ravenswood Police Department and the Ironton Ohio Police Department. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) supported the operation.
S. Marshal Michael Baylous reports that of the 13 missing children recovered by the CUFFED Task Force:
- 3 children missing from San Bernardino, California, taken in a parental dispute were recovered in Beckley, West Virginia;
- 3 children missing from Columbus, Ohio were recovered in Jackson County, West Virginia;
- 1 child missing from within the SDWV was located in Princeton, West Virginia – the USMS had this case less than 6 hrs before locating the missing child;
- 2 children missing from within the SDWV were located in Dunbar and Putnam County, West Virginia;
- 3 children missing from Lawrence County, Ohio were recovered in Lawrence County, Ohio; and,
- 1 child missing from Richmond, Virginia was found in Princeton, West Virginia.
“Everyday a child remains missing, the likelihood of them becoming harmed or victimized greatly increases,” said Michael Baylous, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of West Virginia. “The USMS makes finding these children a priority. As a result over the past 5 years the USMS has a 75% success rate in finding missing children.”
“Human trafficking is a horrendous crime that impacts communities in West Virginia and throughout the country. When children are missing they are at great risk of becoming victims of human trafficking,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “Our U.S. Marshals and federal, state and local partners are true heroes for their tireless work to find and protect missing children.”
The U.S. Marshals Service Southern District of West Virginia recognizes the outstanding efforts of CUFFED Task Force members and the commitment of their respective departments to the overall success of Operation Autumn Hope.
Information regarding Operation Autumn Hope results in the Southern District of Ohio can be found here: https://www.usmarshals.gov/news/chron/2020/102620.htm.