NASHVILLE – A multi-agency operation was recently launched, with the purpose of locating and assessing more than two dozen at-risk children who have been identified as missing in the Davidson County area, to ensure they are getting the treatment and services they need. Operation Safe and Sound identified children who are considered to be at-risk based on multiple criteria, such as having a history as a chronic runaway for extended periods of time, or being a previous victim of human trafficking.
Over a two-day period, dozens of representatives from government agencies and nonprofit organizations worked toward making contact with those children identified as being at-risk, to ensure their safety and assess their status. The agencies providing the support include Metro Nashville Police Department Human Trafficking Unit, Metro Youth Services, Metro Juvenile Courts, TBI Human Trafficking Task Force, TBI Criminal Intelligence Unit, Department of Children’s Services, FBI, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Other non-government organizations, End Slavery Tennessee, Epic Girl, and Free for Life International, joined in the work of this operation.
The multi-disciplinary approach of the operation is intended to locate these missing children and establish contact, and to remove them from any situation in which they may be exploited. The focus was also to provide them services and contacts that will have an active presence in their lives, and to make sure they have access to a safe environment. In coming weeks, agencies will continue the efforts to locate those children who were not found during this past operation, and continue contact with those who were recovered.
“Since the formation of the Special Victims Division Human Trafficking Section a little over a year ago, we have seen over and over that our children are the most vulnerable part of our communities for being trafficked,” says Captain Greg Davis with Metro Nashville Police. “We want to encourage as many people as possible to learn the key indicators and signs of human trafficking in order to make our communities safer from this crime. Information on these indicators and signs can be found at notforsalenashville.com.”
“The TBI motto is ‘That guilt shall not escape, nor innocence suffer’, and who is more innocent than these children who are lost, or at-risk?” says TBI Director David Rausch. “The intent of this mission is to have an impactful effect on the children who are most at risk of falling through the cracks. Efforts like this are intended to provide them the contacts and services they need to be safe”.
“We continue to collaborate with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to locate missing children, ensure their safety and provide them the treatment and services they need,” according to DCS Commissioner Jennifer Nichols. “This operation also allowed us to follow up with youth who were previously recovered to ensure their safety and well-being. I am grateful to the TBI and our law enforcement partners for making the safety of missing children a top priority.”
Operation Safe and Sound was a pilot program, and future similar plans are being considered for other areas of the state.
More information and resources about human trafficking can be found at www.ItHasToStop.com.