Charlotte, NC – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, along with several of its partners, announced during a press conference on Wednesday that more than 150 missing or runaway children in North Carolina had been found as part of Operation Carolina Homecoming.

The operation was a collaborative effort involving multiple agencies focusing on finding missing or runaway children where other efforts to find these children had been unsuccessful. Prior to the operation work from detectives and marshals had resulted in finding 130 missing and runaway children. The detectives and marshals then launched Operation Carolina Homecoming as a more intensive effort to locate additional missing children.

As a result of their intensive efforts between April 26, 2021 to May 7, 2021 they were able to locate an additional 27 children. The operation consisted of two-person teams of CMPD’s Missing Person Unit detectives, United States Marshal Service deputies and the Department of Public Safety Missing Persons Unit.

“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 Statement 

To help the recovered children in their healing process the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has partnered with multiple agencies to provide services. The agencies include Atrium Health Levine Children’s, Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center, the North Carolina ISAAC Fusion Center and Mecklenburg County Child Protective Services.

“Kids don’t need to be living alone in hotels, kids don’t need to be living alone with an older partner. Kids who are actively taking measures to avoid being recovered. They’re self-sustaining, they’re trying to make money, support themselves. These kids were engaged in high-risk activities. Not to sugar coat anything but narcotics activities, human trafficking, prostitution.” – CMPD Captain Joel McNelly

 “Even if a kid goes out there with good intentions that they’re going to stay on the straight and narrow, it doesn’t take very long to get cold and hungry and succumb to the pressure of somebody who knows just how to time their effort into manipulate you into activity you maybe otherwise wouldn’t have wanted to be apart of.” – Dr. Stacy Reynolds with Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital

This piece was written by Zach Heilman on May 21, 2021. It originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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