U.S. Marshals search for missing kids in mission that few rarely see

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marshals just wrapped up a nationwide operation to help find missing kids. They found 200 kids who’ve been considered missing and sometimes they’re at-risk children. Marshals invited our Blair Miller to see what they see and why this mission is so important.

The U.S. Marshals are usually known for going after fugitives on the run.

But they’re also on a mission that few rarely see. Marshals took us with them during their two-week-long operation to find missing children.

These kids are considered some of the most at-risk and potentially in danger. We rode with Deputy U.S. Marshal Michael Dito and his team of Marshals around the Washington, D.C. Area. We went to homes, businesses, and apartments as they tried to track down kids who had been missing.

“A lot of these adolescents are younger. They don’t really know much better, so they’re vulnerable,” said Dito.

In some of these cases, U.S. Marshals are looking for kids who have run away from home. But there are also other situations, where there’s serious concern with these children.

“We have recovered missing children who are in a dangerous environment, dangerous state, and they just need that help,” said Peter Marketos who is the acting U.S. Marshal for the D.C. Region. “The chances are extremely high when it comes to the potential chance for this to become a human trafficking situation,” said Marketos.

The most recent data from the Department of Justice shows a 62 percent increase in human trafficking in this country over a recent ten-year period.

While we were with Marshals, they got a tip that one of the missing kids they were looking for might be working at a restaurant. He’s 17 years old and had run away from home.

When Marshals found him, he broke down in tears pleading to stay.

“I’m sure there are some that would rather not be at home and be, you know, on their own,” said Dito.

Law enforcement says the worry is what happens if a child does run away, potentially being recruited for a gang, or being exposed to sex trafficking and abuse.

In this case, police took him away with the intention of reuniting him with his parents who reported him missing in October of last year. Nationwide, the Marshals found 424 children last year.

“The goal ultimately is to find the most vulnerable among us,” said Marketos.

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