Our dedicated U.S. Marshals have successfully conducted what officials say is the largest anti-human-trafficking rescue mission in American history, in which dozens more missing children in the northeast were found and returned to safety.

According to a press release from the Department of Justice, U.S. Marshals have physically recovered 45 missing children during the month of October. Additionally, 109 other human trafficking victims were also rescued, Fox News reports.

The children and other victims were found during Operation Autumn Hope, which was a “multi-agency enforcement operation focused on human trafficking and the location and recovery of missing and exploited children” throughout Ohio and West Virginia.

The Marshals also located 20 more high-risk children per the request of law enforcement to ensure their well-being.

The sting operation led to a mass arrest of 179 men who are believed to be involved in trafficking the children, Ohio’s Attorney General David Yost revealed. They were arrested on charges of a variety of crimes, including seeking to buy or have sex with the minor.

Yost said in a statement, “The success of Operation Autumn Hope is measured not only in the number of arrests but in the lives that were rescued from this evil,” he said.

“Every agency on this team looks for the day when no person is bought and sold in Ohio,” Yost affirmed.

The DOJ press release states the operation was the result of a joint effort between the U.S. Marshals Service Offices in Southern Ohio and Southern West Virginia, in conjunction with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force.

The FBI, in addition to many other government agencies, celebrated the incredibly successful anti-human trafficking rescue mission.

“When federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies join together, we can better protect the most vulnerable. We are all committed to rescuing trafficking victims and ensuring those who prey on others are criminally charged,” Agent Chris Hoffman said.

Operation Autumn Hope is the third U.S. Marshal-led rescue effort to recover dozens of missing children thus far this year.

In August, Operation Safety Net rescued 25 teenage children in the state of Ohio which is a hot spot for trafficking. The operation vowed to continue through the fall to rescue more of the state’s 200 total missing children.

During the same month, Operation Not Forgotten similarly recovered 39 missing children in Georgia, all of whom exhibited signs of abuse and trafficking.

Between these three task force efforts to find missing children throughout the east coast, more than 100 have been recovered and returned to safety.

The DOJ credits the success of their enhanced efforts to increased funding via the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 which enabled the U.S. Marshals’ to assist state and local law enforcement in rescue missions. The Marshals also established a Missing Child Unit to manage the funding.

Hopefully, as awareness spreads, more funding is allocated to the Marshals to continue ramping up rescue efforts and recovering more of America’s missing children – ending the trafficking crisis once and for all.