Photo courtesy of Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced the recovery of 150 missing children on Wednesday. The operation, Volunteer Strong, was a joint agency effort between the TBI, US Marshals Service, and the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, to locate and rescue missing children. Operations like these typically recover victims of child trafficking, runaway youths who are in danger of being trafficked, and other types of child abduction victims.
“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. “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.”
The operation was launched on Jan. 4 and spanned across Tennessee’s three grand regions, according to a press release from TBI. Intelligence analysts compiled data on 240 missing children in Tennessee and disseminated the information to smaller teams to track down and rescue the children. The children were missing for a multitude of reasons, child trafficking being one of them, but the US Marshals did not go into detail during the press conference.
Each team would receive leads and information for missing children in each region and act on it, following up any evidence or leads in “two-week blitzes.” There were 86 missing children identified in the East Tennessee region. The teams were able to recover 56 children in all, five of them in other states, and three after the operation’s conclusion on Jan. 15. Three of the children were deemed possible victims of human trafficking.
The teams switched over to Middle Tennessee from Jan. 25 to Feb. 5. The joint task force identified 72 missing children in this region. Forty-two of the children identified were recovered, with one of them identified as a possible human trafficking victim.
From Feb. 8 to 12 and Feb. 22 to 26, the teams moved on to focus on West Tennessee. Eighty-two missing children were identified in this region, and 52 of them were recovered, three in other states. One child recovered was the victim of an active kidnapping, and the task force arrested the suspect in that case. They also located two adults with outstanding warrants for their arrest. In this region, there was one juvenile identified as a victim of human trafficking, resulting in an active multistate investigation that is still ongoing.
“We can’t give up. We need the public, the media, and all law enforcement to not give up,” said US Marshal for the Middle District of Tennessee Denny King. “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.”
Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.
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