In the latest law enforcement effort to locate missing children, North Carolina police announced they have found nearly 200 missing and/or runaway juveniles in the Charlotte area.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department issued a press release on Wednesday to share the success of “Operation Carolina Homecoming” which resulted in the recovery of more than 150 missing children.
130 of them were found during a preliminary search, before the operation officially began last month between April 26 and May 7.
27 more were found through “extensive searches” conducted by two-person teams involving CMPD’s Missing Person Unit Detectives, US Marshal Service deputies, and the Department of Public Safety Missing Persons Unit.
Although the report did not describe where the juveniles were located, many of them were living in hotels or with adult partners and discovered to be involved in drugs and prostitution, according to a report from Newsweek. Only a few are suspected to be victims of human trafficking, the release states.
“Several of the juveniles were discovered to have been engaged in high-risk activities such as prostitution and narcotics activity, and a few of them were victims of human trafficking,” police said.
No arrests were reported made regarding the children’s involvement in criminal activities. However, Capt. Joe McNelly with CMPD’s Violent Crime Divisions called the operation a “jumping-off point to start an investigation,” into the people behind the illegal activity.
“People who do this are looking for people, vulnerable people who have bad home lives and are looking for something else—people easily manipulated,” he said.
The release describes the operation as a “collaborative effort” of “several partners” including local police officers, detectives, US Marshals, and multiple missing persons units.
Officials working the operation “focused on the recovery of missing and runaway juveniles in the Charlotte area where previous efforts to locate them had been unsuccessful.”
After their recovery, the children were given resources via partnerships the CMPD has with Atrium Health Levine Children’s, Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center, the North Carolina ISAAC Fusion Center, and Mecklenburg County Child Protective Services.