Jun 15, 2023 - News

Cleveland police address "misinformation" on missing children

an illustration of cut up pieces of graph paper and police fingerprints with the silhouette of a young girl overlaid on them

illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

Local officials are looking to rein in concerns that kids are going missing in Cleveland at an alarming rate.

Why it matters: Cleveland 19's story last month on "a rash of reported missing children" was picked up by major news outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

Driving the news: Police chief Wayne Drummond yesterday led a press conference to address what he called "misinformation."

Catch up fast: Last month, Cleveland 19 detailed that 27 children ages 12 to 17 were reported missing in Cleveland from May 2-16 with no comment from Cleveland police nor information on where investigations into those cases stood.

  • The story drew interest from Fox News, New York Post, Toronto Sun and The Independent, among others, several of which mentioned human trafficking as a concern.
  • "We've seen a lot more [missing kids] than we normally see," John Majoy, board president of nonprofit Cleveland Missing, told Fox News. "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."

By the numbers: So far in 2023, 1,072 children have been reported missing, up 20% from this time last year.

  • Drummond yesterday said the police department has yet to determine a reason for the increase.

Yes, but: To date, 1,020 of those kids have been returned home.

What they're saying: "The vast majority of missing juveniles are runaways and sometimes habitual runaways," Drummond said. "I don't say that to minimize missing juveniles. I say that to add context."

  • Detective Larry Henderhan said the Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force has not seen a rise in trafficking incidents in the area.
  • "It's becoming summer months; kids get antsy," Henderhan added. "They want to get out with their friends and enjoy themselves during the summer. That's some of what we're seeing."

What they're doing: The police department has detectives assigned to missing persons in each of its five districts, as well as one focused on downtown.

  • "We do have missing persons in the city of Cleveland," Drummond said. "We take every single one of them seriously."

Be smart: If you suspect a person has gone missing, call 911, Cleveland's missing persons hotline at 216-623-7697 or the Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force at 216-443-6085.


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