Tennessee law enforcement has recovered 150 missing children after a months-long investigation, the children, between three and 17-years old, were found in three “two-week blitzes” throughout the US state.
Five of the children were suspected to be victims of human trafficking, investigators said, and one was rescued as part of a kidnapping probe. The recoveries are among the largest for recent missions by states to find missing children, a number of arrests have been made following the probe, officials said. “I hope this operation changes the course for 150 young lives and leads them to the path of opportunities every child deserves,” said US Marshal for the Western District of Tennessee Tyreece Miller.
The operation, dubbed Volunteer Strong, was launched in the fall of 2020. A total of 240 missing children were identified statewide, inciting the joint effort by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), US Marshals Services and Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also provided support. Recovery efforts began in January and 150 children were found within two months.
The circumstances of the recovered children varied widely, authorities said, including children that left home, those living with other family members, and others facing abuse or exploitation. Tim Burchett, a Tennessee congressman, called the results “miraculous”.
In all of 2020, a total of 387 children were recovered with assistance from US Marshals. Several other states including Ohio, Virginia, Indiana and Georgia have also launched operations to focus on finding missing children. Efforts to find the remaining 90 missing children in Tennessee will continue, TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said.