More than 200 children who were either missing or exploited were rescued earlier this month as part of a multi-agency operation headed by the FBI.
Operation Safe Summer II, a collaboration between 27 federal, state and local agencies, including the Gwinnett County Police Department and the county’s school police department, located 231 children this year, nearly 100 more than last year’s 149.
Led by the FBI’s Metro Atlanta Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking task force, the operation ran from May 1 to 24, concluding just before National Missing Children’s Day on May 25.
“Thanks to the monthlong efforts of our partners, 231 children are no longer vulnerable to predators who would seek to exploit them,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of the FBI Atlanta field division. “Operation Safe Summer is another example of the FBI’s commitment to protecting our children before they become victims.”
The goal of the effort was to combat “all forms of child exploitation,” the FBI said, and make the community safer for children and teens as school lets out and the summer months begin.
It was also conducted to raise awareness and “send an important message at a time the community’s children are most vulnerable to becoming targets for exploitation,” the FBI said.
According to the National Center for Missing Exploited Children, in 2018, more than 23,500 runaways were reported to the agency, and one in seven were likely victims of child sex trafficking.
As of March of this year, NCMEC estimated there were 419 missing or runaway children on the streets of metro Atlanta.
In addition to law enforcement agencies participating in Operation Safe Summer II, non-governmental agencies, including Gwinnett-based Street Grace.