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Missing Children Success Stories

Walmart® poster leads to safe recovery of critically missing California teen

In December 2011, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® received a report that a 17-year-old girl had gone missing from a group foster home.

The teen, who had previously been listed as missing with NCMEC and law enforcement, was originally located by authorities attempting to enter the United States from Mexico at an international border crossing. After discovering the teen was once again missing, law enforcement immediately suspected the teen had returned to Mexico where it was believed she was a victim of child sex trafficking.

NCMEC coordinated resources with the child's social worker and California law enforcement department. A key resource included the creation and distribution of the child's poster in both English and Spanish in and around specific areas of California and Mexico.

In June 2012, NCMEC received a lead from a caller in Phoenix, Ariz., who recognized the child from a NCMEC poster featured at the local Walmart store. The caller previously had seen the child while visiting a small resort town in Mexico about an hour south of California and had concerns the child could be a victim of child sex trafficking.

After receiving this tip NCMEC's Child Sex Trafficking Team alerted the Department of Homeland Security, and DHS agents stationed near Mexico were notified of the case. One week later NCMEC received confirmation the child had been safely located and recovered by Mexican officials in Baja California, thanks to the lead that came in through NCMEC's 24-hour Call Center.

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