Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) El Paso led a three-week, multi-agency operation in West Texas to recover 70 missing children, some of whom were victims of sex trafficking.
According to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement press release on Wednesday, “Operation Lost Souls” took place over a three-week period in El Paso, Midland and Ector and Tom Green counties from late April until mid-May.
The 70 children rescued during the operation included victims of sex trafficking, as well as physical and sexual abuse, the agency said. Most of the minors were found in West Texas, although some were located in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, Colorado, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
The operation’s success was announced on May 25, which is also National Missing Children’s Day.
“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,” said HSI El Paso Deputy Special Agent in Charge Taekuk Cho 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.”
In addition to HSI El Paso and the Texas Department of Public Safety, other agencies involved in the operation included: HSI Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Attache Office, West Texas Anti-Gang Center, Texas Highway Patrol, El Paso Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service, FBI, El Paso County Constables, Socorro (Texas) Police Department (SPD), Department of Family and Protective Services, El Paso Independent School District Police Department, Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission, and the Juvenile Probation Department.
“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.”
The following agencies also assisted with the recovery mission: San Angelo (Texas) Police Department, Tom Green (Texas) County Sheriff’s Office, Odessa (Texas) Police Department, Ector (Texas) County Sheriff’s Office, Ector County Independent School District Police Department, Midland (Texas) County Sheriff’s Office, Midland County Independent School District, Midland Juvenile Probation Department, Advocacy Center for Children of El Paso, Paseo Del Norte Center of Hope, the El Paso Center for Children, Midland Rape Crisis and Children’s Advocacy Center, Harmony Home Children’s Advocacy Center, Midland Memorial Hospital SANE Nurses, and Medical Center Hospital SANE Nurses.
The HSI is investigating additional information and leads that were produced during the operation. Those with information about a human trafficking victim or information about this type of criminal activity, are encouraged to contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.