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.
“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.
“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.”
And recently, 21 missing children were rescued in Iowa by the agency as part of Operation Homecoming.
Donald Washington, director of the U.S. Marshals, said in October 2020 that about 1,300 missing children have been found since the 2016 fiscal year.
Washington noted that some missing children “may be in the middle of gang affiliations or in the midst of drug abusers,” as well as other potentially harmful situations.