Operation ‘Carolina Homecoming’ locates more than 150 missing juveniles

[Image credit: Kevin Carden Photography]

Charlotte, North Carolina: Yesterday morning the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department announced the results of a joint operation that they had conducted with the U.S. Marshals Service in order to recover missing and endangered juveniles "where previous efforts to locate them had been unsuccessful."


In the months leading up to the most intensive search, detectives with the police department and U.S. Marshals Service managed to locate 130 missing and runaway juveniles.


Between April 26 and May 7, 2021 two-person teams composed of Detectives from the CMPD's Missing Persons Unit, U.S. Marshals Service deputies and the Department of Public Safety Missing Persons Unit, took to the streets to further the search.


These children were described as being those that had been missing for anywhere from 6 months to a year or more and did not wish to be found.


During that search, officers successfully located an additional 27 children.


These 27 were "Kids who are actively taking measures to avoid being recovered," CMPD Captain Joel McNelly said. "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."


Dr. Stacy Reynolds of Atrium Health Levine Children's Hospital, a partner organization that provided services for the recovered children said, "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 a part of."


McNally explained that these children were vulnerable based on their histories, and a challenge awaited on how to make sure that they didn't fall back into that lifestyle.

"These kids come from traumatic backgrounds, potentially abusive households, drug and alcohol addiction, incarcerated parents," he explained.


"It's really a call to action for the community," Dr. Reynolds said. "I think we all know there's a mental health and behavioral health crisis."


The investigation into the human trafficking situations that some of the recovered minors were involved in is ongoing.