By Kelly Hayes FOX13 News Tampa Bay
EL PASO, Texas – U.S. authorities said 70 missing children, ranging in ages from 10 to 17, were recently found after a three-week-long operation based in Texas.
Many of the kids, who included victims of sex trafficking and physical and sexual abuse, were located in West Texas, according to authorities. Some were also found in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, as well as in Colorado and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
he Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which operates under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced the multi-agency operation, called “Operation Lost Souls.” The operation ran from the end of April through mid-May, centered in El Paso, Midland, Ector and Tom Green counties of Texas.
Local police departments, school districts and public safety offices were among the agencies listed as part of the operation.
Officials held a press conference to discuss the results on May 25, which coincided with National Missing Children’s Day.
Law enforcement officials provided victim services and counseling to the children and their families, HSI said. Many of the children had been runaways, authorities added.
No arrests were announced publicly. But authorities said the operation produced “additional information and leads” that HSI is also now investigating.
Human trafficking is a crime of exploitation in which the suspects profit at the expense of their victims by compelling them to perform labor or commercial sex. It’s estimated that there are some 25 million victims of human trafficking worldwide at any given time, according to information published by the U.S. State Department — although such figures are difficult to calculate due to the hidden nature of the crime.
Anyone with information about a human trafficking victim or related criminal activities is asked to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.