“Operation Lost Souls” ran from the end of April through mid-May in El Paso, Midland and Ector and Tom Green counties. The missing youth, many of them runaways, ranged in age from 10 to 17. The children recovered included victims of sex trafficking, and physical and sexual abuse. The majority of the children were located in West Texas, but some were located in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex as well as the state of Colorado and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The agencies provided victim services and counseling to the recovered children and their families.
“Operation Lost Souls exemplifies Homeland Security Investigations’ commitment to protecting the public from crimes of victimization. In this case, we are looking out for our children – our community’s most precious resource,” said HSI El Paso Deputy Special Agent in Charge Taekuk Cho. “HSI is committed to continue working with our law enforcement partners to locate, recover and help missing children heal, while ensuring that perpetrators are held responsible for these heinous crimes and brought to justice.”
Results of the operation were release during a news conference on May 25, which coincided with National Missing Children’s Day.
“At the Department of Public Safety, teamwork is one of our core values,” said DPS Major Matthew Mull. “We are grateful for all of our law enforcement partners who participated in this operation and who work around-the-clock every day to protect our communities, including our youth.”
The multi-agency operation produced additional information and leads that HSI is investigating.
“You have individuals who due to the pandemic have been unable to go see their friends or travel. When you feel secluded at home, not able to go out and about, they meet people online and go meet with these individuals,” said Taekuk Cho, deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in El Paso. “It could be a dating site, social media sites such as Tik Tok, Tinder, Snapchat […] They meet these individuals not knowing they are trying to bring harm to them.”
Assisting agencies included the following: HSI Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Attache Office, West Texas Anti-Gang Center, Texas Highway Patrol, El Paso Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service, FBI, El Paso County Constables, Socorro (Texas) Police Department (SPD), Department of Family and Protective Services, El Paso Independent School District Police Department, Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission, and the Juvenile Probation Department.
These agencies also assisted: San Angelo (Texas) Police Department, Tom Green (Texas) County Sheriff’s Office, Odessa (Texas) Police Department, Ector (Texas) County Sheriff’s Office, Ector County Independent School District Police Department, Midland (Texas) County Sheriff’s Office, Midland County Independent School District, Midland Juvenile Probation Department, Advocacy Center for Children of El Paso, Paseo Del Norte Center of Hope, the El Paso Center for Children, Midland Rape Crisis and Children’s Advocacy Center, Harmony Home Children’s Advocacy Center, Midland Memorial Hospital SANE Nurses, and Medical Center Hospital SANE Nurses,
If you have information about a human trafficking victim, information about this type of criminal activity, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.