150 missing and endangered children as young as three years old were rescued in a multi-agency operation in Tennessee lasting several months.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced the recovery of the children under “Operation Volunteer Strong” at a news conference at its headquarters in Nashville.
Shelly Smitherman, ASAC, TBI: During months of planning, which began in fall 2020, TBI Intelligence Analysts compiled files for 240 missing children across the state. pic.twitter.com/xBg4o1ZZmV
— Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (@TBInvestigation) March 3, 2021
The operation began last fall and was conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), Department of Children’s Service, and the U.S. Marshals Service, with research and analytical support provided by The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
In January, after extensive planning, the teams started following leads on 240 missing children in three regions: East, Middle, and West Tennessee.
Agents recovered 150 children, eight of which were rescued out of state. One child was saved during an active kidnapping investigation, resulting in the arrest of a suspect. Five of the children were identified as possible human trafficking victims.
U.S. Marshal Denny W. King told WTVF that one of the children had been missing for 460 days.
“We can’t give up,” King told the outlet. “We need the public, we need the media, we need our law enforcement partners, the other children services departments to not give up on these children. To continue to look for them to make sure they know that someone is looking for them.”
TBI noted during the press conference that most of the children recovered during the operation will receive services through the Department of Children’s Services, including placements in foster homes, group homes, or other specialized care.
Meanwhile, there are still 90 missing children remaining from this operation, and authorities are actively trying to find them, and hundreds more children go missing every single month in Tennesee.
“The U.S. Marshals are committed to assisting state and local agencies with locating and recovering endangered missing children to help prevent their falling victim to crimes of violence and exploitation,” said David Jolley, U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Tennessee. “We will use every resource at our disposal to help find these missing children.”
“I hope this operation changes the course for 150 young lives and leads them to the path of opportunities every child deserves,” said Tyreece Miller, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Tennessee. “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.”
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