NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Marshals Service New Orleans Task Force phase of the national missing children Operation We Will Find You resulted in the recovery of 14 missing or endangered children from either Orleans, Jefferson, or St. Tammany Parish.
The U.S. Marshals Service Missing Child Unit, in conjunction with several of the agency’s regional fugitive task forces, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and state and local agencies in 16 geographical locations across the U.S., led the 10-week national operation to locate, recover and in some cases rescue endangered missing children.
In addition to the 14 recoveries for the Eastern District of Louisiana, one runaway male teen surrendered and was booked on an open New Orleans Police Department felony warrant related to sex with a 12-year-old female family member. An additional teen was located safely living on the other side of the state and that teen was removed from Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office runaway list. Eight additional warrant related arrests were made during the operation, as well as three on-sight arrests related to recoveries.
A handgun with a modified trigger was seized during one of the New Orleans recoveries that resulted in the arrests of two alleged violent adult offenders. Investigations during the Missing Child Unit operation for the Eastern District of Louisiana covered the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. There were signs of human sex trafficking and other criminal activities in several of the investigations.
Participating agencies in the operation in the Eastern District of Louisiana included the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, Saint Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New Orleans Field Office. Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services also provided critical assistance. The U.S. Marshals Service – Southern District of Mississippi, the U.S. Marshals Service – Middle District of Alabama, and the U.S. Marshals Service Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force also assisted on Missing Child Unit investigations.
The U.S. Marshals Service – Eastern District of Louisiana, was one of two districts in the U.S. to begin a U.S. Marshals Service Missing Child Unit pilot program in 2016 and with the support of local, state, and federal partners, the U.S. Marshals Service New Orleans Task Force has made many recoveries of missing or endangered children since 2016.
“I am thankful to NOPD Superintendent Woodfork, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Lopinto, and St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Smith for identifying at-risk endangered runaways and working with the U.S. Marshals New Orleans Task force and HSI,” said U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Enix Smith III. “Protecting one of the most vulnerable groups in our community will always be a primary focus for us. This partnership has been in place for some time, and we will continue our efforts to locate these at-risk youths. During the timeframe of this operation the U.S. Marshals New Orleans Task Force also continued its daily efforts to investigate and arrest violent felons as well.”