INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. Marshals confirm they rescued eight missing and endangered children during their first city-wide search effort called “Operation Homecoming Indy.”
The children, some of whom were believed to have been trafficked or enticed, were between the ages of 6 and 18 years old.
“I usually average anywhere from 11 or 12 years old up to 18,” Deputy Marshal William Kaulfers told FOX59.
Before February 2020, the U.S. Marshals were used to finding fugitives. Now, they are tasked with finding missing and endangered juveniles. Deputy Marshal Kaulfers is in charge of that at the Indianapolis branch.
“When it became official and I started getting my feet wet with it, I started in the works to get this going,” he explained.
Since the beginning of the year, Kaulfers said he found 22 missing and endangered juveniles. Some of them were in Michigan and California. Others were in dire situations with drugs and weapons involved.
“For all we know, they could overdose,” he said.
After months of planning, Kaulfers coordinated and executed “Operation Homecoming Indy,” a week-long search across the Indy metro. They set out looking for about 18 juveniles. They located eight. U.S. Marshals went to dozens of addresses and conducted dozens of interviews trying to find the children.
“It’s success,” he said, admitting he would like to find more. “The biggest challenge is trying to locate the kids and get them into a safe environment and try and make sure if they were in a bad environment that they get the proper resources.”
Sometimes, Kaulfers said, the teens don’t necessarily want to be found. He confirmed that at least one teen had run from them Thursday.
FOX59 asked how prevalent trafficking is in the state of Indiana. The topic has been in national headlines lately, especially after U.S. Marshals located dozens of kids in Ohio and Georgia.
“It definitely happens in Indiana and through Indiana,” he said, not knowing the exact numbers.
The U.S. Marshals said they plan to do a wider search effort that encompasses the state in 2021.