The truth about missing kids will probably surprise you. The search for 18-year-old Madison Bell had everyone talking about the problem. But how big a problem is it? When you look at the number of people under 21 reported missing in Ohio in 2019, it sounds scary. In the 2019 Ohio Missing Children Clearinghouse Report, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost reports that 24,292 people went missing.
“No case is more difficult than one involving a missing child,” Yost said. “Kids are a top target for exploitation by human traffickers and other predators, and my office will never abandon them – we will always do everything in our power to bring them home.”
Sounds terrifying, right? But let’s take a closer look at the numbers to learn what’s really going on here.
In 2019, 24,292 individuals were reported missing. That’s down 1,327 from 2018. Of that number 18,688 were children.
Locally the numbers for kids reported missing in 2019 stand at:
- Scioto County – 70
- Pike County – 32
- Adams County – 10
- Lawrence County – 32
- Jackson County -18
Keep in mind, these children aren’t all still missing. They were reported missing at some point during 2019. Missing children were equally divided between boys and girls – 9,606 females and 9,032 males.
How real is the threat of being abducted by a stranger? According to the report there were 21 attempted child abductions reported in 2019. The victims were 12 girls and nine boys.
- 38% of abduction attempts involved a vehicle
- 57% of abduction attempts happened between 2-7 pm
- 45% happened while kids were walking to and from school.
The number of successful abductions by a stranger is another number that could surprise you. There were only 2 in 2019. While that’s still two too many, it’s clear that strangers snatching up kids isn’t why the vast majority of kids and teens go missing. Remember that. Out of over 18,000 missing kids, only 2 were taken by strangers.
Amber Alerts are a useful tool to help track down missing kids. Ohio issued just three of them in 2019. Thankfully all three children were recovered safely.
In Ohio, Amber Alerts are only issued for the most serious cases of abduction where a child’s life is believed to be in immediate danger. Here are the criteria a case must meet:
- The child is under 18 years of age.
- Law enforcement believes the abduction poses a credible threat of immediate danger or serious bodily harm or death to the child.
- There is sufficient descriptive information about the child, the suspect, and/or the circumstances surrounding the abduction to believe that activation of the alert will help locate the child.
- Child is not a runaway and has not been abducted as a result of a family abduction, unless the investigation determines the child is in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death.
Runaways and Custody Issues
In most cases kids leave voluntarily or are taken by parent or relative in a custody dispute. Let’s check out the numbers:
- Runaway: A child leaves home without permission and stays away overnight. 10,598 Ohio
- Abducted by noncustodial parent: A parent, other family member or person acting on behalf
of the parent or other family member takes, keeps or conceals a child (or children) – 29 cases in Ohio
- Abducted by a stranger: Two scenarios qualify as nonfamily abductions. The child can be taken by force or lured away voluntarily. The number of cases in Ohio in 2019 – 2
- Fatalities: Open source data revealed that six children reported missing were found deceased in 2019.
The Good News
According to Attorney General Dave Yost, 18,246 people under the age of 21 were found safe by the end of 2019. That means 98% of kids who are reported missing were just fine.
- In many cases, like Madison Bell’s, the individuals actually weren’t missing at all. There was some type of miscommunication or a person between the ages of 18 and 21 left voluntarily.
- That is one reason that police and the media are often hesitant to report that someone is missing. The fear is that if you cry wolf too often, people won’t pay attention to where someone has truly been abducted.
- The Missing Persons Unit has a 24-hour toll-free hotline (800-325-5604) to field calls from law enforcement, parents, and community members. A database of Ohio Missing Persons is available on the attorney general’s website. If you scroll down the list, you’ll see that the vast majority of the missing are endangered runaways.
One lesson to take away from this is that if you really want to prevent missing kids, it’s probably more important to look inward as to what’s happening within your family than outwards to strangers in white panel vans looking at you funny in the Walmart parking lot.