Tennessee joint operation recovers 150 missing kids

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A total of 150 missing children from Tennessee have been recovered during a months-long joint law enforcement operation, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) on Wednesday. 

Authorities said the missing children — ranging in age from 3 to 17 — were recovered during three sweeps across the state in January and February. 

At least one child was identified as a human trafficking victim. Four others are possible human trafficking victims, the TBI said in the release. 

The children were recovered during “Operation Volunteer Strong” a collaboration between TBI, U.S. Marshals Service, and Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

“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.”

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Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch speaks during a joint news briefing Wednesday, detailing "Operation Volunteer Strong." (TBI MEDIA/TBI)

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 arrest of the suspect, authorities said. Another 90 children remain missing, according to a release by the TBI.

“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. “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.”

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After identifying 240 missing children statewide, authorities said TBI intelligence analysts compiled thorough information and potential leads on each kid before sending out teams “during two-week blitzes in each of Tennessee’s three grand regions.”

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

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provided research and analytical support during the operation. Most of the children recovered will receive services and may be placed in foster homes, group homes, “or other specialized care,” authorities said. 

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Miller said investigations will continue and “the next knock at the door could be for you.”

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