CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) – About 200 children are missing right now in Northeast Ohio.
They may be in danger and they need our help, and a task force is making progress tracking them down.
Operation Safety Net recovered 25 missing children in its first two weeks, and the sting is continuing right now.
The task force, led by U.S. Marshals, is working with local partners to get endangered kids to safety.
“These are kids that have been abused, neglected. Some involved in human trafficking,” said U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott.
Elliott has seen the nightmares many missing children have suffered.
“Sometimes the situations they—they go to, believe it or not, may be better than the situations they left from,” Elliott said.
“We’ve had some cases where the mother and or father, or both, may have been prostituting their own child,” he said.
In the past 20 days, U.S. Marshals have worked with Cleveland, East Cleveland and Newburgh Heights police departments to find just over two dozen missing children between 13 and 18 years old.
One in four of those teens they recovered are victims of human trafficking.
“Some we found in Miami, Fla. We have Bedford, Bedford Heights, West Side, East Side, Akron, Mansfield and so on,” Elliott said.
“We’re trying to do our part. A number of these children have gone to the hospital after we’ve recovered them to get checked out, so again this is something we take very seriously,” Elliott said.
Operation Safety Net is focusing on Cleveland and its surrounding cities, but they’re covering all of northern Ohio too with help from the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force.
It’s made up of about 350 men and women from 125 different departments across the state.
“I’ll tell you this, it will be something we’ll be doing every year. This is our first time we have done this, it’s been uncharted territory for us, but we’ve had great success,” Elliott said.
Operation Safety Net will continue for several more weeks.
If anything looks out of place with children in your neighborhood or you know of a missing child, you can call in tips to the U.S. Marshals tip line at 1-866-492-6833.