Over the weekend of August 30th, 2020, it was reported that the U.S. Marshals found 39 missing children over the course of about fourteen days. The USMS is seemingly continuing to do just what they did in 2019, which is to stick to the mission of never giving up on finding these kids (they found over 65% of children within a week of searching for them that year). “The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you,” said Donald Washington, who is the Director of the Marshal Service.
They called the mission “Operation Not Forgotten”, and these 39 children the U.S. Marshals found over that two-week period were located in Georgia, which is just one place in the United States that experiences multiple instances of crimes like sex trafficking and child exploitation. They ended up arresting nine people with charges such as custodial interference, sex offender violation, parental kidnapping, drugs and weapons possession, and sex trafficking.
Sex Trafficking, Parental Kidnapping, and Custodial Interference
One of the charges that the U.S. Marshals gave violators in Georgia when they found those over three dozen children was “human trafficking”, which is also referred to as “sex trafficking”. The Department of Homeland Security defines this as involving the use of “force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” This horrible crime does not always involve children, but too many times it does.
There are thousands of situations every year nationwide where teenagers may run away from home, and simply end up getting involved with the wrong, most dangerous people. These predators have the main goal of forcing them to do things against their will, collecting money for the heinous acts, and confining them for as long as possible.
Another one of the charges that the Marshals gave out in Georgia was “parental kidnapping” which is also sometimes confused with “custodial interference”. They are in fact two different crimes, although the two charges are closely related. There are three main things that would constitute parental kidnapping, and they are all centered around status, custody, and intent.
For example, if the parent who did the kidnapping is not supposed to have custody of a child, but still take them away from their other parent or guardian anyway, they could be charged with parental kidnapping. What would make this charge even easier for authorities and/or parents to recognize would be if there are actually court orders in place (which would read in plain terms which parents have what rights), or if the parent is simply taking the child in a spiteful manner, meaning that they did it specifically to offend the parent who actually has real custody.
“Custodial interference”, on the other hand, could actually occur if, say, a parent has scheduled visits, but the other parent hinders them from seeing the child or children. It can also occur when a parent tries to do things to alienate the child from the other parent, such as attempting to lure the child away from them manipulatively, or by not allowing the child to talk to the other parent on the phone.
Child Runaways and Sex Trafficking Happen Often in the U.S.
Families suffer all across the United States when kids spontaneously come up missing from their homes, parks, parking lots, and various other places thousands of times a year. In fact, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) there are currently over 420,000 missing children, and most of them are labeled as endangered runaways.