A top official within the U.S. Marshals Service reported that 387 missing children—a record high number—were recovered by the agency in 2020.
Speaking to journalist Sharyl Attkisson, Chief Inspector Floriano Whitwell, who heads the U.S. Marshals’ sex offender investigations, said: “Last year, we recovered 387 missing children, and that was the most we’ve ever recovered, almost 100 more than the previous year.
“But I would also emphasize that, in my opinion, we’re barely scratching the surface.”
According to the FBI, the number of reported missing children was 421,394 in 2019 and 365,348 in 2020, with the majority of cases being considered “endangered runaways.”
“I personally was extremely concerned by the lack of spotlight, the lack of resources, and just simply the lack of children being recovered across our country, knowing now how big of an epidemic it was,” Whitwell said. “And so I decided to make that my focus.”
In recent months, the U.S. Marshals Service has carried out a number of operations in states including Oklahoma, Iowa, Ohio, Louisiana, Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.
Operation Volunteer Strong in Tennessee yielded its largest recovery of children—150—last year.
“Many people don’t realize this, but hundreds of children go missing in our state every month,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said in a statement in early March. “From runaways that may leave their home out of desperation or despair, to those entangled in a custody battle, every single one of them deserves a fighting chance, and that’s why they also deserve our best work to help them.”