NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - Federal and state investigators announced Wednesday a recent operation helped recover dozens of missing children across Tennessee.
Officials announced the results at a joint news conference with participating agencies, including the U.S. Marshal Service, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also provided research and analytical support during the operation.
Planning for “Operation Volunteer Strong’ began in fall 2020. Investigators identified 240 missing children across the state -- 82 in west Tennessee, 72 in middle Tennessee and 86 in east Tennessee.
Recovery efforts launched Jan. 4, and in the first 11 days law enforcement recovered 56 children, including five in other states. Another 42 were found the last few weeks of January and early February. Through February, law enforcement recovered another 52 children, including three in other states.
“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.”
Throughout the operation, investigators say they discovered five children were potential victims of sex trafficking and one was an active kidnapping case.
TBI says most of the children recovered during the operation will receive services through the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, which may include placements in foster homes, group homes or other specialized care.