Lake Township police rolling out new program to bring missing kids home

LAKE TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WTVG) - From I-280 to the turnpike, thousands of vehicles pass through northwest Ohio each day. With that high volume, Lake Township police hope those behind the wheel can help bring missing kids home.

"We're always trying to think about what we can do to get ahead of an issue," Lake Township police chief Mark Hummer said.

For three months now, Hummer says his department has worked on a program focused on locating missing kids from around the region. With seven truck stops in the township alone he says officers got the idea of posting pictures and information about the kids there.

"A truck stop is a logical place for us to put the information out because, number one, people need to eat, they need to get fuel and they need to take a break and rest," Hummer said.

In 2019 alone, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children assisted law enforcement with more than 29,000 cases of missing children. Of those, 91 percent were considered "endangered runaways," and 1 in 6 kids were likely victims of sex trafficking.

"Ohio is one of the hotbeds for human trafficking, and one is too many," Hummer said.

Hummer says the posters will be hung in obvious spaces in and around the truck stops. While officers will take tips from anyone they're really hoping truckers will step up and help.

"They can be a perfect extra set of eyes and ears because they may have seen these kids around," Lake Township police officer Ron Craig said.

Craig is spearheading the new initiative, and he'll work with the state attorney general's office and other partners to post the most up-to-date information at the stops.

"It's almost like a perfect storm, you know, with all these interstate highways and the turnpike," Craig said.

Now almost ready for roll out, Lake Township officers say they're hopeful the new program will save lives and stop crime.

"This is just maybe a little something we can do to try and prevent a tragedy," Hummer said.

Lake Township plans to start the new program within the next two weeks. Posters inside truck stops will list a phone number where people can report information to police.