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Attorney General Mike Dewine announced Friday there are 690 missing children in Ohio, but with the recent discovery of three women in Cleveland who had been kidnapped a decade ago, there’s more hope than ever when it comes to finding them.
Each case of a missing child or teen should be considered different and unique. But more often than not, that missing youth is a runaway.
“We did get two cases this morning that we’re just starting an investigation on. Both of these are females and they’re both 14 years old, and one there’s an allegation that a family member may be involved, but not that it was an abduction, but it came in as a runaway case,” said Youngstown Police Det. David Lomax.
Right now, Youngstown police are actively investigating 20 cases of missing kids, with four of those carried over from last year. None of them are suspected abductions.
There are a lot of concerns when a child goes missing, like if they’re really young or without needed medication. And if it’s been more than 48 hours, officers start thinking about who they could have come into contact with.
“If they’re not back overnight, then you don’t know what happened to them, you don’t know who they got hooked up with and what kind of danger that they can be in,” Lomax said.
Approximately 1,000 Ohio children are trafficked every year. The practice is known as modern-day slavery. And while it’s the worst case scenario, it’s a problem everywhere.
“We know that within 48 hours, one out of three of them will be approached by a human trafficker. We have 88 counties in Ohio. Mahoning County, Trumbull County cannot be the only counties where that’s not happening,” said Jean Waris of the Northeast Ohio Coalition on Rescue and Restore.
On Friday in Columbus, a balloon launch was held to raise awareness about Saturday being National Missing Children’s Day. Nearly 700 names, representing each of the state’s missing children, floated into the sky.
“It’s kind of symbolic, but also lets us think about what we have to do to prevent tragedy, what we also have to do to try to find these children,” DeWine said. “Some of these children have been missing for decades, but the discovery of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michele Knight in Cleveland this month reminds us that we can’t give up hope.”
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office also released the Ohio Attorney General’s Missing Children Clearinghouse annual 2012 report. According to the report, a total of 19,219 reports of missing children were made in 2012. Of those children, 98.8 percent were recovered safely.
DeWine and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children encourage parents to take 25 minutes to talk with their children about staying safe.
• Teach children how and when to use 911.
• Walk or drive the route to and from school with children, pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they’re being followed or need help.
• Remind children it’s okay to say no to anything that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable or confused.
• Practice “what-if” situations and ask children how they would respond.
The Missing Children Clearinghouse documented 72 family abductions in 2012 and 12 non-family abductions. There were also 62 attempted abductions. Of incidents in which the outcome is known, 53 percent involved the children being able to walk or run away with no physical contact occurring.
To see photographs of Ohio’s missing children, click here.