Recently, a mission to find some of the many missing children was carried out. It was dubbed, “Operation Lost Souls,” and it had the success of finding 70 missing children.
“Operation Lost Souls”
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) headed an investigation to recover missing children in West Texas. They worked together with several agencies of local, state, and federal positions. These agencies included the Texas Department of Public Safety. Nonetheless, together they managed to recover 70 missing children over three weeks. Also, these children ranged between 10 years old and 17. Many of the missing children were runaways, but other cases included children who were victims of abuse (physical and sexual) or sex trafficking.
DPS Major Matthew Mull said at a news conference on May 25: “At the Department of Public Safety, teamwork is one of our core values. 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.” Also and rather ironically, this conference happened to fall on the same day as National Missing Children’s Day.
Taekuk Cho, an El Paso Deputy Special Agent for Homeland Security Investigations made a statement about the recovery of the 70 children:
“Operation Lost Souls exemplifies Homeland Security Investigations’ commitment to protecting the public from crimes of victimization,” said Cho. “In this case, we are looking out for our children — our community’s most precious resource. HSI is committed to continuing 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.”
Also, Major Mull went on to express the gratitude of the Department of Public Safety for the agencies who worked together to find the missing children.
“At the Department of Public Safety, teamwork is one of our core values. We are grateful for all of our law enforcement partners who participated in this operation. Those who work around the clock every day to protect our communities, including our youth.”
However, Texas is a large state. So, the Homeland Security investigators and the Department of Public Safety would need all the help they could get. Of the teamwork that Major Mull spoke of, many agencies joined in to do their part in bringing the children home. Some of the collaborating agencies included the El Paso, Odessa, and San Angelo Police Departments. Others include The Ector county Sherriff’s Department, the West Texas Anti-Gang Center and the Department of Family and Protective Services. Furthermore, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Paseo Del Norte Center of Hope, and the Midland Juvenile Probation Department. Finally, the El Paso Center for Children, Center for Children of El Paso, the Harmony Home Children’s Advocacy Center, and many more.
Read: US marshals rescued 45 missing children as part of ‘Operation Autumn Hope’
Human Trafficking in Texas
So, according to a Border Report, officials in various operations have arrested 19 people who are connected to human trafficking. Since the pandemic, there have been more reports of cold-based sexual exploitation, like human trafficking. The conclusion is that because children are online a lot more because their schools are COVID risks, they face a lot more risk from certain individuals they encounter online. Therefore, with all of the social media apps around, there is a lot of room for this.
Firstly, the supervisor for the bureau’s human trafficking and crimes against children squad, Aida Reyes said: “It’s quite an increase. I attribute it to people being more online … kids have gone to online schooling, and even adults are online a little bit more. It’s an opportunity for individuals to take advantage of people who’re more isolated. They tend to reveal their vulnerabilities and people exploit those vulnerabilities”.