Ten people were apprehended in the human trafficking sting in North Olmstead, Ohio, which is just a half-hour west of Cleveland. A non-profit executive and a middle school teacher were among those arrested.
According to Newburgh Heights Police Chief John Majoy, the disappearance of that many children in a short span of time is something he has not seen in his 33-year career.
“There’s always peaks and valleys with missing persons, but this year it seems like an extraordinary year. 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,” said Majoy.
The disappearances are not going to make the news unless there is an Amber Alert, and their stories are not being shared on social media.
“It’s a silent crime that happens right under our noses. 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,” Majoy said.
This fuels the series of crimes in the larger Cleveland area.
Majoy said when teenagers are hopeless, they join gangs for protection, which leads to initiation crimes such as robberies, carjackings, prostitution or the use of drugs.
Lack of photos make it harder to find missing persons
What makes this problem harder to solve is the lack of photos of the missing persons. Combing through Cleveland’s missing person pages shows that there are more blank spaces with the words “Photo not available” than there are pictures of the missing persons.
This makes all kinds of headaches for law enforcement, according to Majoy. “Unless someone knows that person, then we’re not going to have any luck.”
If the family has photos, police can employ social media and blare out messages to the public. The public, Majoy said, is law enforcement’s greatest asset in missing person cases.
Cleveland and the neighboring suburbs have a special nonprofit known as Cleveland Missing that is dedicated to giving support to families of missing persons, aiding with searches for their loved ones and helping them deal with their emotions. Majoy serves as the board president of Cleveland Missing.