A city is at the centre of an alarming surge in missing children raising concerns about human trafficking and other dangerous activities.
In the first two weeks of May, nearly 30 children aged 12 to 17 were reported missing in Cleveland, Ohio, according to the police.
Chief John Majoy of the Newburgh Heights Police, who is also the board president of Cleveland Missing, a volunteer nonprofit organization, expressed concern over the unusually high number of missing children throughout the month.
He stated that this year has seen an unprecedented level of missing children, which is troubling as the circumstances surrounding their disappearances remain unknown.
There are worries that they could be victims of human trafficking, involved in gang activity, or caught up in drug-related issues.
Between May 2 and May 16, the Cleveland Police reported 27 cases of juveniles under 18 years old going missing.
While it is more likely that most of these cases involve runaway situations rather than abductions, Chief Majoy emphasized that young teenagers are vulnerable and easily targeted by predators who disguise their intentions.
Unfortunately, their disappearances often go unnoticed unless an Amber Alert is issued, and their stories receive limited attention on social media platforms.
"It's a silent crime that happens right under our noses," Chief Majoy told Fox News.
"The problem is where are they? Where do they go? They can be in a drug house or farmed to prostitution or caught up in drug trafficking or gangs."
They could be in drug houses, exploited in prostitution, or entangled in drug trafficking and gangs, thereby contributing to the cycle of crime in the greater Cleveland area.
The police chief explained that desperate teenagers often join gangs for protection, leading to crimes such as carjackings and robberies, engaging in prostitution, or falling into drug addiction.
The issue is further compounded by the lack of available photos.
On Cleveland's missing persons' page, there are more empty squares with the text "Photo not available" than actual pictures of the missing individuals.
This poses significant challenges for law enforcement efforts, as identification becomes difficult without a visual reference. However, if families possess photographs, the police can leverage social media to disseminate messages to the public.
Chief Majoy highlighted the importance of public involvement in missing persons cases and considered it the greatest asset for law enforcement to gather tips and potential leads.
Cleveland and its surrounding suburbs are home to a unique nonprofit organization called Cleveland Missing.
This organization is dedicated to providing support to families of missing persons, aiding in search operations, and assisting families in coping with their emotions.
Founded by Sylvia Colon and her cousin Gina DeJesus, who was abducted by Ariel Castro in 2004 at the age of 14, Cleveland Missing aims to address the common experiences shared by families of missing persons.
Ms Colon stated that initial disbelief, self-blame, and the overwhelming uncertainty of finding their loved ones are common emotions.
As time passes without a resolution, families also struggle with the guilt of continuing their lives while actively searching for their missing family members.
To provide tips regarding missing persons in and around Cleveland, individuals can contact the police at 216-623-7697 or email email@example.com.
Cleveland Missing is located at 2937 West 25th St. in Cleveland and can be reached at 216-232-6470.