My name is Megan Cleveland and I am a senior at George Mason University, interning here at “Inside Crime.” As an intern, I have the opportunity to learn so many new things. You may have heard about a recent law enforcement operation in Georgia called, “Operation Not Forgotten.” It received nationwide attention because it was a huge success, rescuing 39 missing children in Atlanta and Macon this past summer. When I was assigned to interview one of the investigators who had a key role in this operation, I was intrigued and nervous. I have helped in the background with interviews before, but this was my first time talking directly with someone who sees such a dark part of society. I spoke with Deputy U.S. Marshal Darby Kirby and got a unique look into these heartbreaking cases.
Chief Inspector Kirby leads the Missing Child Unit of the United States Marshals Service and we talked about what it's like being a part of these operations. “When we track down fugitives, it’s a good feeling to know that we're putting the bad guy behind bars. But that sense of accomplishment is nothing compared to finding a missing child," said Kirby, “It's hard to put into words what we feel when we rescue a missing child, but I can tell you that this operation has impacted every single one of us.” Kirby explained that these children are in a very vulnerable position where they cannot fend for themselves. We also talked about all of the positive feedback from the media and the public. She says the incredible response to “Operation Not Forgotten” has helped motivate them even more and there are ongoing conversations about doing similar operations in the future.
I learned that the publicity generated an interesting twist. The nationwide attention somehow led to multiple conspiracy theories and many inaccurate stories, including one version that said 39 missing children were all found in a Georgia trailer. This led to questions demanding why there wasn’t more information about the bust of a huge child sex trafficking ring. Kirby quickly set the record straight by explaining that these children were located in many different areas throughout Atlanta and Macon (houses, apartments, condos) and there was NO raid of a child trafficking ring. “These conspiracy theories were pretty unbelievable. I was surprised that our good work somehow sprouted into these untruths,” said Kirby. “These missing children were considered to be some of the most at-risk and some of them were in trafficking situations but there definitely was no trafficking ring bust.”
This interview gave me a better understanding of what it's like to be a part of “Operation Not Forgotten.” Talking with Kirby has opened my eyes about the long hours of planning, research, and coordination needed for a multi jurisdictional operation. Regardless of the news we see in our media today, there is always more to learn about what goes on behind the scenes. I commend every law enforcement officer for their devotion and endless efforts dedicated to saving and protecting our children.