Over 150 Missing Children Found by North Carolina Police

More than 150 missing children have been recovered in 2021 as part of an extensive police operation in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area.

During a press conference on Wednesday, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) confirmed that it had recovered at least 157 runaway and missing juveniles as part of a search called "Operation Carolina Homecoming."

The department said that its Missing Persons Unit had recovered more than 130 children in the first four months of the year, according to the Charlotte Observer, before finding an additional 27 between April 26 and May 7.

During the 11-day operation, "two-person teams of CMPD's Missing Person Unit detectives, United States Marshal Service deputies and the Department of Public Safety Missing Persons Unit" extensively searched and recovered the 27 juveniles.

The CMPD said that some of the recovered children had been involved in drugs, prostitution and human trafficking, and that many had been missing for more than six months.

"There were a few people involved in human trafficking activities and that's something we take seriously," Capt. Joe McNelly with CMPD's Violent Crimes Division said.

"This is a jumping-off point to start an investigation. People who do this are looking for people, vulnerable people who have bad home lives and are looking for something else—people easily manipulated."

He added that several of the juveniles were found in hotels or living with adult friends and partners in the Charlotte area. They have now been reunited with their families or put into the custody of Mecklenburg County Child Protective Services.

The CMPD has partnered with several local organizations, including Atrium Health Levine Children's Hospital, in order to provide recovery services to the juveniles as they adjust to life back with their families or living in care.

Dr. Stacy Reynolds, division chief of pediatric emergency medicine at the hospital, told the Charlotte Observer: "If we don't tend to these kids and give them what they need, there are predators out there that are going to recruit them to participate in the type of criminal activities that makes us all less safe at night.

"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."

No arrests have yet been made in relation to the criminal activity some of the juveniles were involved in, but an investigation is ongoing, according to WSOC-TV.

Newsweek has contacted CMPD and Atrium Health Levine Children's Hospital for comment.

police car missing children Charlotte
Police units respond on scene. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Missing Person’s Unit announced that it had recovered more than 150 missing children on May 19 2021. Matt Gush/iStock / Getty Images Plus