Rachel del Guidice / @LRacheldG / September 09, 2020
The U.S. Marshals Service found 39 missing children in Georgia over two weeks in a mission called Operation Not Forgotten. The rescued children “were considered to be some of the most at-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area,” the agency said.
How did Georgia state officials work with the Marshals Service to rescue these children, many of whom were being sold for sex? Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss.
Rachel del Guidice: I’m joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr. Attorney General Carr, it’s great to have you on “The Daily Signal Podcast.“
Christopher Carr: Rachel, thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor to be on.
Del Guidice: Well, thanks for making time to be with us. So, I’d love to talk about what happened recently. The U.S. Marshals Service recently found 39 missing children in Georgia over a two-week period in a mission of theirs called Operation Not Forgotten. Can you start off by telling us about what Operation Not Forgotten was?
Carr: Absolutely. Operation Not Forgotten was designated to locate and recover missing and endangered children in Georgia and beyond, including some that were known to be victims of sex trafficking.
The important thing, from my perspective, is there were 39 missing child recoveries, of which 15 we know are suspected of being sex trafficking victims. So those children’s lives are going to be forever changed and it’s … a result of the partnerships that we really created.
I commend the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, our new Human Trafficking Prosecutions Unit, but also the nonprofits that are there to help rehabilitate the kids. And that’s Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, it’s Wellspring Living—great partnerships. But that’s what happens when you have good partnerships and you rescue children.
Del Guidice: You had mentioned sex trafficking and I know a press release from the U.S. Marshals Service said that the missing children who were found were considered to be at some of the most high-risk and challenging recovery cases in the area. So along with sex trafficking, can you tell us what some of those other high-risk cases were?
Carr: Absolutely. You had cases where children were being exploited, you had sexual abuse, you had physical abuse, you had some children that either had medical or mental health conditions.
So in some form or fashion, they were high risk, they had been identified by local law enforcement, by agencies or others, and were given to the Marshals Service to make sure, to check in on their well-being, or in some cases rescue and recover.
So it was a broad-based operation and again, some of our most vulnerable children … were rescued, recovered, and made sure that they were safe.
Del Guidice: Can you kind of give us a little bit of a perspective or look behind the scenes into how an operation like this is successfully executed and what kind of things go into the background and in the execution to do something incredible like this?
Carr: Sure. And I don’t want to get too much into the details of the specifics, but from a high-level perspective, it takes a lot of preparation. It takes a lot of coordination, again, between local agencies and our state agencies.
We had the Department of Family and Children’s Services, for example, that were a part of it and had concerns about some of the children that may have been in their purview. We had local enforcement and others that had identified and provided the names to this … group and for this operation.
But at the end of the day, it takes coordination. It takes preparation. The children that were found in this particular operation were anywhere between 3 and 17 years old. Many were found in Georgia, but others were found as far north as Michigan, some down in Florida, as far west as Oklahoma, and even a couple were identified as being overseas. So that takes preparation, coordination, logistics.
Again, you need law enforcement, you need nonprofits to be able to care for the needs of the children that are found. So it’s an operation, but … partnerships, collaboration, and coordination between these agencies was critical.
Del Guidice: You mentioned partnerships from different agencies and services, state and local. What can you tell us too about how your office was involved in this operation?
Carr: Absolutely. We have a new Human Trafficking Prosecutions Unit. A year ago, July, we started due to the support of Gov. Brian Kemp and the first lady who have made human trafficking a priority for the state, for them personally, our Legislature funded it.
So we … started in September of 2019 with 16 members that included a couple of prosecutors, an analyst, a victim advocate, and an investigator. And for this particular operation, we were in on the front end of it, to make sure that, particularly as it relates to human trafficking and the suspected human trafficking victims, … law enforcement were helping us hold accountable those that were abusing children.
So making sure that we had the right evidence, making sure from a legal perspective for the cases that would be brought in state court in Georgia that we did it the right way. We provided guidance, our investigator was a part of it as well. So really a seamless transition between state, federal, and local law enforcement.
And to be in on the front end from our team’s perspective is invaluable. Because again, we’ve got to make sure that we not only indict, but we convict those that are abusing our children, that are buying and selling children for sex.
Del Guidice: On that note, Attorney General Carr, we’ve talked about how some of these children were rescued due to sex trafficking, they were victims of that, child exploitation, sexual abuse, other different conditions. How widespread, when we look at the problem of the child sex trafficking, is this issue?
Carr: Well, unfortunately, it’s one of those crimes that hides in the shadows. It’s very hard to get the data for exactly how many children have been abused, but this is one of those … crimes against humanity that it’s just morally abhorrent.
I’ve always said one child that we rescue from a life of being abused and trafficked for sexual purposes is a good day. In this particular case, we had 15. But the point is there are more, and oftentimes Atlanta and Georgia seem warrant to a hub for sex trafficking.
Well, it’s hard to know where we fall in the line, because as I said, it’s hard to get the data, but there’s sex trafficking all across the state of Georgia, there’s sex trafficking all across the country, and it’s a global problem.
But I do know this: When you start putting resources together, like we have, you got the state that is now committed to a human trafficking prosecution unit, when you’ve got focus through our Georgia Bureau of Investigation—I’ve said it before, when governors and presidents make issues issues, it matters.
President [Donald] Trump has made this an issue and has put resources … through the federal government toward this issue. Ivanka Trump has become the point in the administration.
I mentioned before Gov. Brian Kemp and the first lady. The first lady has created a commission, called the Grace Commission. That’s bringing all the experts to the table to say, “What are we doing? And what do we need to do next? And what do we need to do better?”
That shows the importance of this issue and the focus on this issue because it’s very difficult to find out what the specific numbers are.
We’re trying to all do better to coordinate so that we are data-driven and we are evidence-based. But at the end of the day, again, one child that’s being abused like this, where we can come in and make a difference and rescue them and hold accountable those that are committing these atrocious crimes, is good as far as I’m concerned.
Del Guidice: On a similar note, Attorney General Carr, as an attorney general of the state, what is your message to other states as well as other attorneys general about the importance of operations like this one?
Carr: Well, the beauty of this initiative and what has happened on the issue of sex trafficking and human trafficking is it’s brought everybody together.
This is an issue where attorneys general talk about this issue, coordinate on this issue, collaborate on this issue. At the national level, regionally, there are conversations that are being had because again, we all recognize the horrific nature of what we are dealing with.
And my background, I was the commissioner of economic development, where you had good success the more people worked together on an issue because no one agency had everything that was needed or any one city or one state. But when you start leveraging the resources that each of us have, you start having great outcomes. And that’s what you see here.
You see law enforcement working together, again, in a regional basis, in a national-type platform, but you also see attorneys general, you see others, you see governors working on this issue.
The other important piece of this really is training and education and awareness in the private sector. Because the more eyes we have on this issue, the more people feel like they can contact law enforcement and say, “Hey, this just doesn’t look right.”
When you see an older adult and a child and they’re not making eye contact or something just seems out of place, it would be better to be wrong than let one more child be in a situation where they’re being abused. And so this has just become an issue that’s gotten into the national consciousness, the national conversation. And that’s a good thing because we don’t need children to be abused.
The average age of sex trafficking victims are 12- to 14-year-old girl. It’s not just girls. It’s also boys. That’s a sixth- to an eighth-grader. They shouldn’t be in a situation where they’re being bought and sold for sex. They should be in school. They should be playing sports. They should be on the theater on the stage. They should be partaking in things that are fun for those in middle school and early high school to be doing, they shouldn’t be abused.
So this is just one of those issues that everybody’s come to the table. And that’s a good thing.
Del Guidice: You had mentioned the importance of training people in the private sector. Are you doing any particular things on that? And if so, what does that look like for you guys, as you reach out to those in the private sector?
Carr: Well, we are, and this is a great example. Just to give you two private sector examples, one, Delta Air Lines, which is headquartered in Atlanta. They have committed as a company to be the eyes in the sky. They’re training all their flight attendants. They’ve been absolutely fantastic.
We’ve got UPS also headquartered in Atlanta that is spearheading truckers against trafficking, doing training programs.
And when you think about it, Delta Air Lines flies all around the world, flies all around, obviously, the United States, they have a reach that’s unbelievable. UPS is in every neighborhood in the world. And so when you train all of your drivers to be aware of the red flags as it relates to trafficking, that’s a good thing.
The state of Georgia, the first lady has implemented a training program for all state employees. Our office works with nonprofits like Wellspring Living and Street Grace to coordinate trainings with our Criminal Justice Coordinating Council at the state level, also with the GBI.
So there’s a number of training programs people can get either through industry, through nonprofits, or through the state of Georgia. Because again, if we could have all 10.6 million Georgians aware of this issue, again, we will be a lot more successful in protecting children.
Del Guidice: Well, that’s incredible. Thank you for sharing that. As we wrap up here, I did want to ask, you all are super busy and I just wanted to ask and see if your office, if there’s anything else you all are working on that you’d like to highlight as the attorney general of Georgia? Would love to hear about that.
Carr: Sure. Well, from Operation Not Forgotten, we have five arrests already and other investigations that are going on as it relates to sex trafficking, and we anticipate that other arrests will be made. And so that relates specifically to that.
But I told you our Human Trafficking Prosecutions Unit is only a year old, but in the one year they’ve been up and really fully staffed and operational.
We’ve placed 18 victims already in a rehabilitation center, such as the state’s Receiving Hope Center, which is operated by Wellspring Living. We’re working cases in 11 of Georgia’s counties. We’ve already indicted five traffickers and have eight ongoing investigations. And we’re about to add another prosecutor to the team.
So we feel very good about where we are, but I think the future is bright as it relates to rescuing victims. And if you are committing acts of sex trafficking, whether you’re a buyer or seller in Georgia, you need to think twice about it because we’re coming after you.
Del Guidice: Well, Attorney General Carr, thank you so much for joining us. There’s been so much bad news lately, and I feel like this is such good news that everyone can really be encouraged by. So thank you for joining us and speaking with us and sharing.
Carr: Absolutely. Thanks, Rachel. Appreciate your interest on this issue.
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