The number of missing and runaway children in Ohio by 2023 is nearly double that of states with similar population densities, causing panic among parents and police, who in some cities can’t keep up with the number of teenage runaways.
This month alone, 45 children have been reported missing in the Cleveland area.
They join the total number of 1,072 people reported missing since the start of the year.
Although the majority have since returned home or been reported, police say many are regular runaways who are likely to disappear again.
In 2022, Ohio had nearly double the number of runaways than states like Georgia, North Carolina and Illinois, all of which have between 10 and 12 million residents.
Gideon Hefner, top left, Camryn Golias, top right, Teonnah Thompkins, bottom left, and Iyahna Graham, bottom right, have all disappeared in recent weeks
Gideon Hefner, 14, ran away from the foster home he was living in earlier this month. Camryn Golias, 17, is also missing
There are now more than 45 missing minors in the Cleveland area, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s office. They have all been reported missing since September 1. They join a total of 1,072 children reported missing by their loved ones in the area since the start of the year.
Although police say most are likely runaways, they are struggling to meet demands from concerned parents wanting to find their children.
Newburgh Heights Police Chief John Majoy said earlier this year that the number of missing children between the ages of 12 and 17 remained unusually high.
“For some reason, we’ve seen a lot more in 2023 than we normally see, which is disturbing in part because we don’t know what’s going on with some of these kids.
“Whether they’re being trafficked or involved in gang activity or drugs.”
Sherice Snoden, whose 15-year-old son Keshaun is missing, said yesterday during a community search for him: ‘It’s been over 40 days without my child. I just want him back home.
‘I miss my child every day, I worry, I don’t know if he is eating or sleeping. I just want him back home.”
John Majoy, president of Cleveland Missing and Newburgh Heights police chief, said News5 Cleveland: ‘There just aren’t enough police officers on the streets to do this as law enforcement.
Keshaun Williams, who disappeared on June 17 this year, was last seen at a house party but never returned
‘The audience is our greatest asset. We can’t do this without the public.”
Other missing children include 14-year-old Gideon Hefner, who was last seen on September 12 in American Township, Ohio.
According to the missing persons report, he was wearing a dark-colored shirt, jeans, a black hat and a backpack at the time.
Camryn Nicole Golias, 17, was last seen in Akron, Ohio, in September 2023 but is still missing.
Similarly, 16-year-old Elijah Hill disappeared from Sandusky, Ohio, on September 20 and has not been seen since.
Meanwhile, Iyahna Graham, 17, disappeared from North Canton, Ohio on September 23. Police have also advised that if found, she should be approached with caution.
Days before Graham went missing, Teonnah Thompkins was last seen in Cincinnati, Ohio on September 17, wearing a black shirt, black pants and white shoes.
Maurice Hamrick, 14, Honesty Howell, 16, Elijah Hill, 16, and Chloe Hadley, 17, all disappeared within five days of each other earlier this month.
A similar pattern began in May this year, with as many as 27 children reported missing in the area early this month.
Majoy emphasized that he has never seen such large numbers of missing children in his 33-year career.
While Majoy claimed that most of the cases are likely runaways and not kidnappings, he added that teenagers are naive when it comes to predators, which he said can be “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
And unfortunately, most missing children don’t make the news because there’s usually no Amber Alert, said Majoy, who described the cases as “silent crimes happening right under our noses.”
There are strict criteria for an Amber Alert: the police must be able to reasonably assume that an abduction is taking place and that the child is in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told News5 Cleveland that inconsistencies often occur throughout the process, such as updating reports.
He said: ‘What we know is that when we look behind the numbers, some of them represent repeat runaways and the local police have spoken about that.
‘All of these things raise local reporting issues that are again a function of local conditions.
“We do our best to encourage compliance and improve assistance to remove barriers, but ultimately we have to rely on our local partners over whom we have no control.
‘I’m afraid of all kinds of things falling through the cracks, including missing children.
“I trust the tenacity of a concerned parent more than a harried bureaucrat whose job is to feed data into a computer.”
According to Yost, the University of Toledo is now working to improve its data collection and reporting systems statewide.
He continued, “Law enforcement cannot be everywhere and cannot see everything.
‘We rely on the people, the population, because we have 11.7 million pairs of eyes that can keep an eye on things.’
Maurice Hamrick, above left, Honesty Howell, above right, Elijah Hill, below left, and Chloe Hadley all disappeared within five days of each other earlier this month