MEMPHIS, TN – A significant rescue operation in Memphis, Tennessee, led by federal and local officials, resulted in the recovery of 13 children who were considered high-risk for human trafficking. The two-day mission, dubbed “Operation Not for Sale,” was a collaborative effort involving the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), U.S. Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Memphis Police Department, and Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.
The children, who were previously reported missing, were identified as particularly vulnerable to human trafficking due to factors such as a history of sexual abuse or unstable home environments. According to Dr. John DeGarmo, founder and director of the Foster Care Institute, these children often seek affection and acceptance outside their homes and can be easily manipulated by traffickers promising a better life.
Law enforcement agencies use various methods to identify potential trafficking victims, including examining family histories of domestic violence or sexual abuse. Other indicators may include unique tattoos, bands, or the possession of new and expensive clothing, which can suggest involvement in trafficking.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reported receiving over 17,200 reports of child sex trafficking in 2021, from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Additionally, of the 25,000 reports of runaway children, one in six is likely to become a victim of human trafficking.
In the weeks leading up to Operation Not for Sale, intelligence analysts identified children at high risk of trafficking. From November 2 to 3, six search teams visited 56 locations to locate these children. The operation successfully located 12 juveniles aged 11 to 17, and a 2-month-old infant.
Officials involved in the operation expressed their commitment to continue these efforts. U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Tennessee, Tyreece Miller, stated that the operation had shown great success and highlighted the importance of interagency cooperation in these efforts. The TBI estimates that 500 to 600 children go missing every month in Tennessee.
The TBI is continuing its efforts to locate other missing children and encourages anyone with information about suspected human trafficking in Tennessee to contact the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline.