Hundreds of missing children have been found thanks to a team of volunteer former law enforcement and military officers.
Former police officers, special operators, Navy SEALS, and private investigators have located 233 children who went missing or ran away from home since the end of the year 2014. Saved in America (SIA), the nonprofit organization these experts volunteer for, claims most of the children would have been victims of human trafficking had they not been returned to their worried families.
“Since December 2014, SIA has assisted in the investigation and locating of 223 children from California to Florida,” the SIA website said. “60 percent of all recovered children were found before being trafficked.”
The overwhelming majority of children were found in San Diego County (49), followed by Los Angeles County (12), the Orange County (six), Mexico (five), San Bernardino County (three), Bakersfield (three), and Florida (three).
The nonprofit organization found two children in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. There was at least one child located in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Riverside County, Fresno, Utah, Nevada, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Idaho.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) estimated that within 48 hours of hitting the streets, about a third of these children are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution and pornography.
“The San Diego district attorney’s office estimates there are 2,500 runaway minors at any time in the county,” SIA said on its website. “100 percent of the San Diego County schools studied, found that trafficking recruitment was occurring in their schools.”
Megaphone News reported a 16-year-old girl was abducted while riding her bike one afternoon. Parents Maureen and David contacted SIA after police officers strongly suspected she had run away from home.
Less than seven days later SIA volunteers had already tracked down and rescued the teenager before criminals allegedly had the chance to sell her as a slave.
“You stepped up to the plate when we were in desperate need of searching for our missing 16-year-old daughter,” an anonymous parent told SIA.
The charity has helped provide legal representation, safe housing, and rehabilitative therapy to many displaced children, according to the news outlet.
Cases of human trafficking and exploitation continue to be reported across the nation. NCMEC has received 8.2 million tips on possible human trafficking or exploitation in 2016 alone. The National Human Trafficking Hotline opened 7,621 new and related cases in the same year.
Some believe technology could help fight child sexual exploitation. NCMEC has invited electronic service providers to work in partnership with the center’s CyberTipline to help prevent more children from being exploited.
“We know that this work massive, yet our partners are unwavering in their dedication,” NCMEC said on its website.