Major rescue operation saves 13 children

MEMPHIS, TN – Thirteen children, previously reported missing and identified as high-risk for human trafficking, have been rescued in a major operation in Memphis, Tennessee. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), in collaboration with the U.S. Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Memphis Police Department, and Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, spearheaded the two-day mission, known as “Operation Not for Sale.”

Dr. John DeGarmo, founder and director of the Foster Care Institute, explained that children from unstable homes or with a history of sexual abuse are particularly vulnerable to traffickers, who exploit their need for affection and promise them a better life.

To identify potential victims, law enforcement agencies look for signs such as a family history of domestic violence or sexual abuse, unique tattoos or bands, or the sudden possession of new and expensive clothing. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reported that in 2021, it received over 17,200 reports of child sex trafficking from across the country, with one in six runaway children likely to become victims.

In the weeks preceding Operation Not for Sale, intelligence analysts identified children at high risk of trafficking. Over the course of two days, search teams visited 56 locations to find these children, ultimately rescuing 12 juveniles and a 2-month-old infant.

The operation’s success has been hailed by officials, with U.S. Marshal Tyreece Miller expressing gratitude for the interagency cooperation. With an estimated 500 to 600 children going missing in Tennessee every month, the TBI is continuing its efforts to locate other missing children.

Anyone with information about suspected human trafficking in Tennessee is urged to contact the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline.