Fact Check: Map Does NOT Show Current Number of Missing Children By County in Ohio

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fact Check: Map Does NOT Show Current Number of Missing Children By County in Ohio 98% Found

Does a map show the number of missing children by county in Ohio and is it the "human trafficking capital of the entire USA"? No, that's not true: the map shows the number of reports about missing children in 2018 but omits the fact that over 98% of them were found safe and sound. Only six kids were abducted by strangers in Ohio that year. Also, human trafficking is much worse in other places in the U.S.

The claim resurfaced in a Facebook post (archived here) published by Warren Wright on May 21, 2020. It showed a map of Ohio with a number in each county, captioned:

These are the number of missing children by county. Ohio is the human trafficking capital of the entire USA. Please pray for these kids.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

However the map used in the viral Facebook post is not accurately represented here. It originated from a 2018 report issued by the Office of the Attorney General in Ohio, you can see it on the fifth page. It is the annual report of the "Missing Children Clearinghouse" which the document describes in the introduction:

The Ohio Missing Children Clearinghouse was established by the Ohio General Assembly in 1993 as
a central repository for statistics and information about missing children throughout the state. It
serves as an investigative resource to help law enforcement and families locate missing children. It
also makes educational information available, including news releases, training updates, and dates
for child abuse prevention and safety fairs

For the people worried about the numbers on the map, the report definitely has some good news:

2018 Statistics
The Ohio Missing Children Clearinghouse receives monthly statistics on missing persons in Ohio
whose cases have been entered into the NCIC database by law enforcement agencies.
Based on these statistics, the clearinghouse documented 25,619 people reported missing in 2018.
Of those, 19,879 were reports of missing children -- 10,643 female and 9,236 male. Authorities
reported that 98.1% -- a total of 19,510 children -- were recovered safely by the year's end. Open
source data revealed that two children reported missing were found dead in 2018.

(our emphasis)

The report also says that most cases on the map were children who ran away from home. On the topic of abductions by strangers it has this information:

Abducted by stranger: Two scenarios qualify as nonfamily abductions. In the first, a nonfamily
perpetrator takes a child using physical force or threat of bodily harm and/or detains a child
in an isolated place using physical force or threat of bodily harm without lawful authority or
the permission of a parent/guardian. Under this scenario, the child is taken for at least one
hour. In the second scenario, the child is taken and detained, or voluntarily accompanies a
nonfamily perpetrator who conceals the child's whereabouts, demands ransom or expresses
the intention to keep the child permanently. Within this category, a "stereotypical
kidnapping" is defined as involving someone the child does not know, or someone of slight
acquaintance, who holds the child overnight, kills the child, demands ransom or intends to
keep the child permanently. 6

Six cases in all.

Calculations by Reuters seem to indicate that in 2018 Nevada had the highest number of human trafficking incidents relative to its population while California had the most cases in total:

According to data (here) from the Polaris Project, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that works to combat human trafficking , there were 898 victims of human trafficking identified in the state of Ohio in 2018. By combining state-by-state data (here) from Polaris with state population totals (see first table, "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population" here: here) from the U.S. Census Bureau, Reuters found that the state of Nevada has the highest rate of human trafficking relative to population size: about 19.6 victims per 100,000 people. For Ohio, the rate is 7.7 victims per 100,000 people. The state with the highest number of total victims in 2018 was California, where 3,272 people were trafficked.

(Note that these numbers include adult human trafficking as well.)

So Ohio would not appear to be the "human trafficking capital of the USA" either.

  Maarten Schenk

Maarten Schenk is the co-founder and COO/CTO of Lead Stories and an expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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