Charlotte, N.C. – More than 150 missing and/or runaway children were located in North Carolina, officials say.
During Wednesday’s weekly press conference, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department joined with several of its partners to share the success of Operation Carolina Homecoming, which was a collaborative effort focused on the recovery of missing and runaway juveniles in the Charlotte area where previous efforts to locate them had been unsuccessful.
Prior to the start of the operation, work by Detectives and Marshals resulted in the recovery of more than 130 missing and runaway juveniles. Following this preliminary effort, Detectives and Marshals launched the intensive recovery efforts of Operation Carolina Homecoming. Between April 26 and May 7, 2021, two-person teams consisting of CMPD’s Missing Person Unit detectives, United States Marshal Service deputies and the Department of Public Safety Missing Persons Unit conducted extensive searches and located 27 more missing juveniles.
Police said “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.” To provide them with resources for recovery, the CMPD leveraged partnerships with 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,” CMPD Captain Joel McNelly said. “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,” McNelly said. “Not to sugar coat anything but narcotics activities, human trafficking, prostitution.”
Dr. Stacy Reynolds with Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital told WCNC. “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.”