Operation spanning 9 states leads to rescue of 6 endangered children

Posted at 11:26 PM, Apr 29, 2015

Phoenix, AZ– Six missing or exploited children, including one in Arizona, were rescued during a three-day, nine-state operation that ended April 17, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said.

In addition, Arizona DPS officers made four initial arrests, launched three investigations of sex crimes against children and mounted two human trafficking investigations, DPS spokesman Bart Graves said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

As many as 349 highway patrol division officers initiated 2,667 traffic stops in Arizona during the period, Graves said.

The operation focused on increasing awareness among uniformed law enforcement officers and communities in an effort to identify and rescue missing, exploited or at-risk children.

DPS leadership said law enforcement can’t do it alone.

“I need the eyes of the public,” Arizona DPS Director Col. Frank Milstead said. “I need public suspicion. I need people when they see something, say something.”

“It doesn’t matter where you’re at, if you’re at a truck stop or a restaurant or a rest area and you see something unusual, I need you to pick up the phone and call 911,” Milstead said.

Some of the suspicious behaviors people should pay attention to include children looking out of place and having conversations with adults that aren’t normal.

“They’re malnourished. They’re hungry. They’re dirty,” Milstead said, referring to some of the clues people can look for. .

“Whatever it is that makes you wonder why that child is in that condition or why they might be in that particular situation – those are the things that are suspicious,” Milstead said.

Milstead said rescuing the six missing or exploited children doesn’t sound like such a staggering number when you’re talking about nine states.

“But I assure you if one of those six kids was your kid, that number is staggering,” Milstead said. “We’ve made a difference in six people’s lives and the families that support them.”

“This is a very positive step forward as we try to get better at interdicting these at-risk youth,” Milstead added.

The Texas Department of Public Safety spearheaded the operation. Besides Arizona, participating agencies included Austin Police Department, Arkansas State Police, Louisiana State Police, Georgia Department of Public Safety, Ohio State Highway Patrol, South Dakota Highway Patrol, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Utah Highway Patrol and Durham (England) Constabulary. The United States Marshals Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation also provided support when needed.