LAS CRUCES, N.M. - A multi-agency operation led to the location and recovery of dozens of missing children in New Mexico.
Nearly 80 children between 5 and 18 years old were found, the U.S. Mashals Service tweeted on Monday.
In a press release issued on July 21 by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the operation dubbed Operation Rescue Me was initiated on May 1.
So far, 78 children have been found and two are still missing. Three minors were recovered and the 75 others were located, the press release stated.
According to ICE, recovered minors are those who were active in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system as missing and/or runaways. These children have since been returned to their guardian and removed from the NCIC system.
The operation is still ongoing, according to U.S. law enforcement.
The operation spanned two months in which officers got their first lead when they located a minor living in Mexico. Two investigations into missing minors were initiated for child sexual abuse by relatives, according to ICE.
Operation Rescue Me focused on locating and recovering missing children in Dona Ana County, New Mexico.
It involved officers led by U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) as well as local law enforcement agencies.
"We will remain committed to our mission of protecting the most vulnerable in our communities which include at-risk children who may come from difficult home environments, face homelessness, substance abuse and online enticement. Increased risk factors contribute to a higher number of runaways which can become victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking," Erik P. Breitzke, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations El Paso. "HSI will continue to partner with local law enforcement to reduce the number of missing children and educate the community on this increasing problem in our society." Breitzke’s area of responsibility includes Southern New Mexico and West Texas
HSI is encouraging the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through the agency’s toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.