Police in North Carolina say they recovered more than 150 missing children, some of which became involved in narcotics and human trafficking, according to a press release by the City of Charlotte.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department announced Wednesday that “Operation Carolina Homecoming” had led to the recovery of 27 missing children between April 26 and May 7, according to a statement by the city government. Most of the children had been missing for more than six months, according to police.
Operation Carolina Homecoming led to CMPD identifying and locating over 130 juveniles. Most of them had been missing for more than six months. This operation took place from April 26 to May 7.
— CMPD News (@CMPD) May 19, 2021
Prior to the two-week operation, police had recovered 130 missing and runaway children with the help of U.S. Marshals, according to the Charlotte Observer. The 27 children were considered especially critical cases, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Captain Joel McNelly said during a press briefing.
“Several were engaged in high-risk activities,” McNelly said. “Not to sugar coat anything, but narcotic activity, human trafficking, prostitution.”
In total, 157 children were recovered throughout the operation. The recovered juveniles were either reunited with their families or returned to Department of Social Services custody, police said.
“Some were at friends’ houses, hotels and there was one who was living with an adult partner,” McNelly said. “Kids don’t need to be living in hotels, or with an older partner.”
McNelly said most of the recovered juveniles were between the ages of 14 and 18. McNelly told reporters that no arrests had been made at the time, but that the human trafficking task force is involved and would be following leads related to the cases. (RELATED: More Than 170 Arrested In Human Trafficking Ring Police Say)
The police department partnered with Atrium Health Levine Children’s, Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center, the North Carolina ISAAC Fusion Center and Mecklenburg County Child Protective Services in the operation, according to the city government’s press release.
Dr. Stacy Reynolds, division chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital, said at-risk children who aren’t cared for can be pulled into criminal activities by predators, the Charlotte Observer reported.
“They’re not getting up every morning and trying to fail,” she said. “It’s just that the options on the street of how to survive are extremely limited. Even if a kid goes out there with good intentions, it doesn’t take very long to get cold and hungry and succumb to pressure,” Reynolds said.