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'We can't give up:' 150 missing children located as part of Tennessee operation

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Posted at 10:01 AM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 10:01:21-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), along with other agencies, announced the results of a “significant” operation to locate missing children in the state.

The TBI provided updates on “Operation Volunteer Strong” on Wednesday morning, saying they identified 240 children who were listed as missing, and among those, 150 have been recovered.

The TBI, the Tennessee Department of Children's Services and the U.S. Marshals were involved in the operation, which began in the fall. In January, teams began pursuing leads during two-week periods in each of Tennessee’s three grand regions.

Agents said the children range in age from 3 to 17. Eight of the children were living out of state.

East Tennessee:

  • Authorities identified 86 missing children, of which 56 were recovered, five of them in other states.
  • Three of the recovered juveniles were identified as potential human trafficking victims, resulting in a still-active TBI investigation.

Middle Tennessee:

  • Authorities identified 72 missing children, of which 42 were recovered.
  • Law enforcement said one child was identified as a potential human trafficking victim, resulting in a still-active TBI investigation.

West Tennessee:

  • Authorities identified 82 missing children, of which 52 were recovered, three of them in other states.
  • While searching for missing children, authorities said they located two adults with outstanding warrants.
  • One of the recovered juveniles was identified as a human trafficking victim, resulting in a still-active investigation by a Mississippi local law enforcement agency and FBI.
  • Authorities also recovered a child during an active kidnapping investigation, resulting in the arrest of the suspect.

The TBI said some of the children had been dealing with some form of abuse. Some ran away from home or state custody, or they were found living with a non-custodial family member.

U.S. Marshal Denny W. King said they recovered one child who had been missing for 460 days.

"We can’t give up. 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," said King.

The TBI said most of the children recovered during the operation will receive services through the Department of Children’s Services, which may include placements in foster homes, group homes, or other specialized care.

TBI Director David Rausch said hundreds of children go missing in Tennessee every month.

This story was originally published by Laken Bowles at WTVF.