A team of federal, local, and state law enforcement agencies has located and recovered 70 missing children as a part of a three-week operation in West Texas, the Department of Homeland Security announced. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) El Paso, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and numerous other federal, state, and local agencies took part in “Operation Lost Souls” that ran from the end of April through mid-May in El Paso, Midland, Ector and Tom Green counties.
The children recovered included victims of sex trafficking, and physical and sexual abuse, according to law enforcement officials. Many of the children and teenagers are runaways and range in age from 10 to 17.
The majority of the children were located in West Texas, but some were located in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex as well as the state of Colorado and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
“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,” HSI El Paso Deputy Special Agent in Charge Taekuk Cho said in a statement. “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 agencies involved in the operation are providing victim services and counselling to the recovered children and their families. “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.”