An area police chief said that the number of 12- to 17-year-old children who went missing in the vicinity of Cleveland last month is "troubling."
"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," Newburgh Heights Police Chief John Majoy told Fox News.
"It's a silent crime that happens right under our noses," he said. "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 is also the board president of Cleveland Missing, a nonprofit "offering direct support for families and friends searching for their missing loved ones," according to its website.
"There's always peaks and valleys with missing persons, but this year it seems like an extraordinary year," Majoy, a 33-year police veteran, told Fox.
Fox reported that 27 area residents under the age of 18 went missing between May 2 and May 16.
Fox said most of the missing children were more likely to be runaways than victims of kidnapping, but that didn't necessarily make them any safer.
Vulnerable teens may find themselves susceptible to predators and be too naive to recognize their danger.
Majoy said social media can be law enforcement's "greatest asset" when it comes to locating missing children. Unfortunately, that tool is less useful when photographs of the juvenile aren't available, which is often the case.
Scrolling through Cleveland Police Missing Persons index, it's easy to note that fewer than half of the persons under 18 listed there had pictures on record.
"Unless someone knows that person [without a picture on file]," Majoy told Fox, "then we're not going to have any luck."
Cleveland Missing, which was founded by Sylvia Colon and her cousin Gina DeJesus, who was abducted when she was 14 and remained in captivity for years, works with families of the missing as well as training law enforcement officers in how to help families and recovered victims.
DeJesus' kidnapper, Ariel Castro, was sentenced to life without parole plus 1,000 years after agreeing to a plea deal to avoid the death penalty, Fox reported in 2016.
Castro had been charged with 977 counts, including hundreds of counts of kidnapping, rape and assault.
The house in which Castro held DeJesus and two other victims in the basement for nearly a decade was demolished as part of his plea agreement. Castro hanged himself with a bed sheet in his prison cell about a month into his sentence.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.