Children are disappearing from northern Ohio at record numbers, with more than 1,000 minors reported missing so far this year.
More than 45 children have gone missing in the Cleveland-Akron area this month alone, and in August, there were more than 35 missing minors, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s missing children website.
The disappearances are now creating a disturbing trend in northern Ohio, which began in May, when nearly 30 children went missing in just the first two weeks.
Officials at the time called it an “extraordinary surge” in disappearances.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost repeated on Monday that the number of missing children is alarming — though he claimed the figure may be inflated due to inconsistencies in updating reports, which the Cleveland police have admitted to in the past.
“Yes, of course we are worried about that,” he told News 5 Cleveland.
“Now, what we know is when we look behind the numbers, some of those represent repeated runaways and local police have talked about that.”
He added that data for runaway cases, abductions or sex trafficking is not always entered correctly as the state deals with a police staffing shortage.
“All of these things have localized reporting problems that, again, are a function of local conditions,” Yost said.
“We do our best to encourage compliance and improve assistance to remove barriers, but at the end of the day, we have 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,” Yost added. “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.”
But John Majoy, president of Cleveland Missing and the police chief of Newburgh Heights, previously sounded the alarm on the surge in missing children.
“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,” he told FOX News back in May, adding that he has not seen such high numbers of missing children before in his 33 year career.
Majoy said it is likely that most of the cases involve children who ran away from home, and were not abducted — but he said teens can be naïve about predators who can be “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
Among the missing is Keshaun Williams, 15, who vanished after attending a house party on June 17.
Gideon Hefner, 14, also went missing on September 12 from American Township, and Camryn Nicole Golias, 17, was last seen in Akron earlier this month.
Elijah Hill, 16, disappeared on September 20 from Sandusky, Ohio, and Iyahna Graham, 17, vanished from North Canton on September 23.
Just a few days earlier, Teonnah Thompkins, 17, was last seen in Cincinnati, Ohio, wearing a black shirt, black pants and white shoes.
Maurice Hamrick, 14; Honesty Howell, 16; and Chloe Hadley, 17, all disappeared within five days of each other earlier this month also.
Yost said the state is now working with the University of Toledo to develop an improved statewide data collection reporting system to help find these missing juveniles.
“Law enforcement can’t be everywhere and can’t see everything,” he said. “We rely on the people, the population, because we have 11.7 million pairs of eyes out there that can keep an eye out.”
Meanwhile, concerned parents have started their own efforts to locate the missing children — including Breana Brown who started the organization JUMP, Join Us in Minors Protection, to help bolster support and awareness.
“As a community, I feel like we need to do more,” she told News 5 Cleveland. “We need to make it a priority.
“If we make more things like this a priority, we will be more on top of it, such as updating the website so we can know who is missing,” she explained.
“This is our community; we want to know what’s going on in our community, and with our children especially.
“We have so many missing children, we want to prevent this from happening, so we need to buckle down. This is not a matter we should take lightly, not at all.”