Following a joint law enforcement operation, 150 missing children aged 3 to 17 were located throughout Tennessee.
CNN reported that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced that a task force discovered the children during three “sweeps throughout the state,” as part of “Operation Volunteer Strong.” Only a few of those children may have been human trafficking victims, however.
“The situations of the children recovered vary widely, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Shelly Smitherman said, ranging from children that left home during difficult situations, some who were found with non-custodial family members to children ‘dealing with abuse or exploitation,’” CNN reported.
Four of the children were identified as potential human trafficking victims, while a fifth was described as “a human trafficking victim, resulting in a still-active investigation by a Mississippi local law enforcement agency and FBI.”
TBI also announced that a “number of arrests” had been made in connection with the missing children. The operation, TBI said in a press release, began on January 4th and concluded in late February, with each of the three sweeps taking place in a different part of Tennessee. The first sweep, which ran from January 4 to 15, took place in East Tennessee and recovered 56 of 86 identified missing children. Five of the recovered children were found in other states, 27 were recovered just before the official operation, and another three were found after it ended.
The next sweep took place in middle Tennessee between January 25 and February 5. Authorities recovered 42 children out of an identified 72 missing. As with the first sweep, 29 of the recovered children were found in the weeks before the operation, with just 13 found during the actual operation. The final sweep covered West Tennessee and ran from February 8 to 12, with an additional operation running from February 22 to 26. Out of the identified 82 missing children, 52 were recovered by the operation, three of whom were found in other states. Thirty-three of the missing children were found before the operation, 19 were found during the operation, and one was found after the operation concluded.
“I hope this operation changes the course for 150 young lives and leads them to the path of opportunities every child deserves,” Tyreece Miller, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Tennessee, said in the press release. “Our efforts should also serve notice to those who prey on society’s most vulnerable that these children are not forgotten. Investigations will continue and the next knock at the door could be for you.”
As The Daily Wire has previously reported, authorities have been making pushes to find missing children across the country over the past year, including in California, Georgia, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and elsewhere.
The U.S. Marshals and Tennessee Department of Children’s Services also helped with the latest operation.
The U.S. Marshals Service has recovered more than 2,000 missing children since 2005. In just the past five years, it has located children in 75% of cases it has received, two-thirds of whom were found within seven days.
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