More than 1,000 children have been reported missing in Ohio this year in what officials have described as an “extraordinary surge” in disappearing minors. The majority of the 1,072 children reported missing in the state this year have safely returned home, but officials, parents, and community leaders are concerned about the disturbing rise in reports.
In September alone, more than 45 kids have been reported missing in the Cleveland-Akron area, adding to the 35 missing children reported in August, according to News 5 Cleveland. Newburgh Heights Police Chief John Majoy — who is also president of Cleveland Missing, a group dedicated to finding missing children — warned in May about the increase in missing children, saying that he worried some of the missing kids have been victimized by human trafficking or gang activity.
“For some reason, in 2023, we’ve seen a lot more than we normally see, which is troubling in part because we don’t know what’s going on with some of these kids — whether they’re being trafficked or whether they’re involved in gang activity or drugs,” Majoy told Fox News.
While many of the children reported missing in recent weeks have been found safe, some still have not been seen or heard from. Keshaun Williams, 15, has been missing for more than 90 days as volunteers for Cleveland Missing continue to canvass the area where Williams was last seen. Camryn Golias, 17; Teonnah Thompkins, 17; Maurice Hamrick, 14; Honesty Howell, 16; Elijah Hill, 16; and 14-year-old Gideon Hefner were all reported missing within days of each other and haven’t been seen for a week or longer.
“There’s just not enough police officers in the streets to do this as law enforcement,” Majoy told 5 News Cleveland. “The public is our greatest asset. We can’t do this without the public.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said the data on missing minors is often inconsistent and unreliable as Cleveland police have admitted to being slow to update reports. Yost added that the state government has to “rely on our local partners that we don’t control.”
“I am fearful of all kinds of things that fall through the cracks that include missing children,” the attorney general said. “I rely on the tenacity of a worried parent more than I do a harried bureaucrat whose job it is to put data into a computer.”
Last year, Ohio reported more than double the number of missing children as states with similar populations, such as Michigan and North Carolina, The Daily Mail reported. In 2022, 425 children were reported missing in Michigan, 470 minors disappeared in North Carolina, and 1,455 children were reported missing in Ohio.
“We have so many missing children, we want to prevent this from happening, so we need to buckle down,” said mother of four Breana Brown, who started an organization to boost support and awareness for missing children. “This is not a matter we should take lightly, not at all.”