A joint law enforcement operation has recovered 150 missing children in Tennessee, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) has announced.
The Tennessean reports Operation Volunteer Strong was launched on Jan. 4 after 240 missing children were identified in the state.
The operation was a coordinated effort between the TBI, U.S. Marshals Service, and Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also provided research and analytical support during the operation.
A series of “two-week blitzes” over a period in January and February in East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee led to the recovery of 150 children, the TBI announced.
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Some of the missing children were identified as possible human trafficking victims, and one child was safely recovered by U.S. Marshals during an active kidnapping attempt, resulting in the suspect’s arrest, authorities said. Another 90 children remain missing, the agency said.
“We can’t give up. We need the public, the media, and all law enforcement to not give up,” said Denny King, U.S. Marshal for the Middle District of Tennessee during a press conference held on Wednesday. “If you see something, or know something, say something. We cannot give up and stop searching for our most vulnerable and those who cannot help themselves.”
Tyreece Miller, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Tennessee, warned potential perpetrators, “the next knock at the door could be for you.”
“I hope this operation changes the course for 150 young lives and leads them to the path of opportunities every child deserves,” Miller said. “Our efforts should also serve notice to those who prey on society’s most vulnerable that these children are not forgotten. Investigations will continue.”
The law enforcement officials said most of the children recovered during the operation will be placed in foster homes, group homes, or other specialized care.
As CBN News has previously reported, similar operations have been conducted over the last few months in several states and have successfully recovered dozens of missing children and human trafficking victims.
In February, authorities in Arizona arrested 37 people in connection with child sex crimes and human trafficking. According to KNXV-TV in Arizona, the suspects ranged in age from 21 to 66 years old and are in custody for allegedly soliciting and/or negotiating deals for various sex acts.
Also in February, a successful human trafficking operation in Missouri, that was conducted by multiple law enforcement agencies, led to the rescue of six adults and two children.
In January, 33 missing children were recovered in Southern California following a multi-agency human trafficking investigation.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said at least eight had been sexually exploited.
Multiple law enforcement agencies and non-governmental branches participated in “Operation Lost Angels,” which began on Jan. 11 as part of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
The bureau said it has seen a surge in both sex and labor trafficking-related crimes, with the agency reporting more than 1,800 investigations as of November 2020.