Cleveland police officials address ‘misleading’ information on missing children, human trafficking


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland police officials Wednesday clarified what they called misleading national reports that cited an alarming rate of missing children in the city. Cleveland Police Chief Wayne Drummond told reporters the number of missing youths is up 20% from last year. Of the 1,072 kids who have gone missing this year, more than 1,020 have returned home. In the first two weeks of May, the city received at least 30 reports of missing children. The rate led some to believe that the youths were being abducted and used in sex trafficking. “We don’t have anything in the city of Cleveland right now that would indicate that we have individuals targeting our kids and using them in human trafficking or otherwise,” Drummond said. He said the numbers appear to be misleading because most kids reported missing are habitual runaways. Police, however, investigate every case. Others return home, but their families fail to tell police. “If it looks like it’s a serious and legitimate kidnapping or abduction, we bring in our federal partners and the FBI and others to assist us to find that particular missing person,” Drummond said. There is a detective in each of the five police districts who handle missing persons. Each district has a designated a zone car, as well. Detective Kevin Callahan reviews reports of missing persons, works with detectives and connects them to useful resources through the FBI or the county’s Human Trafficking Task Force. Callahan said parents or family should not hesitate to file a missing persons report because there is not a specific time frame a person has to be gone for the case to be investigated. “My word of advice to all parents out there is to talk to your children, know what they’re doing, know who they’re talking to and what their social media accounts are,” Callahan said. Callahan also mentioned that in cases of missing kids in the area, it is difficult for the police to obtain photos. He encouraged parents to take their children to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, where children can get their photos and fingerprints taken to give police as much information as possible, in case an investigation has to be conducted. Larry Henderhan is the director of the Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force. He said the agency has not seen a rise of human trafficking incidents with missing kids in Cleveland. The task force works closely and shares information with Cleveland police and other agencies in Cuyahoga, Lake, Ashtabula, and Geauga counties. “It’s becoming summer months, a lot of kids getting antsy, the lack of supervision at home, and they want to be out with their friends and go out into the streets and enjoy themselves,” Henderhan said. “That’s what we’re seeing.” During the summer months, there is an uptick in missing persons, but most are found or return home within a day or two, Drummond added. The numbers of missing kids can be misleading because some of them come home and run away again, Drummond said. Additionally, some families fail to tell authorities of their child’s arrival home, which makes it appear that the youths are still gone. The chief said the city has programs in place to keep youths active and engaged. There are over 20 recreation centers, exercise classes, youth camps and Hoops After Dark. “There are some kids who go missing who just don’t want to be found, and there are some adults who go missing and just don’t want to be found,” Drummond said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re being human trafficked or used for sexual abuse or anything like that.” If you purchase a product or register for an account through one of the links on our site, we may receive compensation. By browsing this site, we may share your information with our social media partners in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Use of and/or registration on any portion of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement (updated 4/4/2023), Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement, and Your Privacy Choices and Rights (updated 1/26/2023). © 2023 Advance Local Media LLC. All rights reserved (About Us). The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Advance Local.

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