COLUMBUS — Attorney General Mike DeWine joined students Friday to release balloons honoring Ohio’s 690 missing children and urged the public not to give up hope that those who disappeared might be found.
DeWine pointed to the high-profile case of three women — two of whom disappeared as teenagers — who were found in a Cleveland home where they say they were held captive for about a decade. The man charged with kidnapping and raping them is expected to plead not guilty.
“Some of these children have been missing for decades, but the discovery of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight in Cleveland this month reminds us that we can’t give up hope,” DeWine said in a statement.
Ohio’s 690 cases include some people who disappeared as children as far back as the 1960s but would now be adults. Students at Columbus Preparatory Academy launched blue and white balloons to represent the missing a day ahead of National Missing Children’s Day on Saturday.
DeWine also released his annual report about the work of the Ohio Missing Children Clearinghouse, which was created 20 years ago as a central repository for information and statistics about the state’s missing children.
Ohio had more than 19,000 reports of missing children last year, and about 60 percent of those were runaways, according to the report. Most were recovered safely.
DeWine urged families to teach children to properly use 911 and review where students can seek help if they find themselves in trouble on their routes to or from school.
“Facilitating the safe recovery of a missing child requires quick work and coordination — both among agencies and with the critical help and input of the public,” he wrote in a letter introducing the report to Gov. John Kasich and state legislative leaders. “We all need to do our part in helping these kids get home safely.”