DES MOINES, Iowa — The United States Marshals Service is locating Iowa’s missing children and teenagers with the skills Marshals would typically use to hunt down fugitives. It’s called “Operation Homecoming.”
“Each [missing child] case is unique,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Scott Cannon, who oversees the effort in Iowa’s Southern District. “Sometimes [we are] looking for someone who doesn’t want to be found. So, we have to remember that we’re looking for victims, not fugitives.”
Cannon said they adjust their approach accordingly. He said there are about 300 missing people in Iowa, right now. About half of them are juveniles. He said that more than 90% of those missing kids are runaways who are more likely to become victims of sex trafficking.
Operation Homecoming began in October. So far, the Marshals have located more than 20 juveniles and recovered seven children.
Cannon said they receive a lot of help from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “We get a lot of our leads from them, and we pass our cases through them, and they do a lot of intelligence developing for us,” said Cannon. “Anytime someone suspects something or believes they come across a missing child, we urge them to contact NCMEC.”
There is a cyber tipline on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children homepage at missingkids.org