It was every mother’s worst nightmare……
Michelle, a single mother, woke up early and was getting ready for work when she realized her 15-year-old daughter, Julia, was gone. She called the local police department, frantic. They came to her house and took a report, but believed that Julia had runaway and classified her as such. In the eyes of law enforcement, children classified as “runaways” are a lower priority than children classified as “abductions.” There is no Amber Alert for them, patrol officers are simply advised to stay on the look out for children like Julia.
Special Operations began our boots-on-the-ground investigation. We interviewed Julia’s mother, her friends, and we searched social media. Our team found Julia being sold for sex on trafficking websites. She was being advertised as being “23” which is a code word for “underage.”
Normally, with this type of evidence, law enforcement would conduct a rescue within 48 hours. Unfortunately, because of budget cuts, it took 2 weeks for the police department to elevate Julia’s case to the Violent Crimes Unit. And, even then, repeated calls to the Violent Crimes Unit by both our team and the family went directly to voicemail, which was heart wrenching to the family.
Special Operations called on its network of federal agents who planned a ruse to buy Julia online from the traffickers. The plan worked. Julia is home safely and the traffickers have been targeted for arrest. We are in touch with the family and continue to monitor and support Julia’s journey to restoration and wellbeing.
Special Operations hires undercover private investigators to rescue vulnerable runaways who are most at risk of being exploited into trafficking and drugs. Since beginning operations in 2018, we have provided the investigation evidence to help law enforcement quickly find and rescue 40 missing Bay Area kids. We are grateful for each rescue, but we know we need to do more. Over 65,000 children were missing in California last year. It takes a Public Private Partnership between law enforcement and the community to solve this horrific hidden crime.
Join Special Operations and let’s stop the exploitation of children together.