A joint operation between U.S. Marshals and state and local authorities in Georgia recovered 20 children alleged to be victims of child sex trafficking in metro Atlanta, sheriffs reported.

The operations were part of a more general mission called “Operation Not Forgotten 2021.” It was conducted in Atlanta over two weeks and was the third of its kind designed specifically to rescue missing children, possibly victims of sex trafficking, Fox 5 Atlanta reported.

According to a statement from the Department of Justice, “Operation Not Forgotten 2021,” began in May in secret mode and extended.

“Our Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit was proud to again partner with our local, state and federal partners on Operation Not Forgotten 2021 … We appreciate the U.S. Marshals Service Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force for coordinating this initiative,” Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr, an openly outspoken Republican, said in a press release.

Of the 20 children rescued, at least 16 were confirmed to be victims of sex trafficking, one of the greatest aberrations of the modern world and one that has increased since the loosening of immigration controls under President Joe Biden.

In a separate statement released by U.S. Marshals on Wednesday, they announced that Wayne Marcell, 35, of Connecticut, was arrested at 8:30 a.m. during a raid stemming from “Operation Unforgotten 2021.”

In the process of Marcell’s arrest, another “trafficked and endangered child” was recovered, authorities said. The suspect has been charged with first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor.

Investigators are hopeful that the operations conducted this year will result in multiple criminal prosecutions. In addition to freeing the children who were victims of aberrant acts, the perpetrators were identified and face sentencing commensurate with the harm done.

The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) indicated in its report that it is leading the way in a joint national effort to recover children who are missing and, in many cases, being exploited in various ways.

Since 2015, the USMS helped recover more than 1,800 missing children and assisted in recovering a missing child in 75% of reports received. Of those, 66% were recovered within seven days of sheriffs helping with the case. 

Nationally, there are currently more than 50 local USMS task forces that are dedicated exclusively to the reduction of violent crime by locating and apprehending wanted offenders. These task forces also serve as investigative centers for missing and exploited children nationwide.