TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - More than a thousand children are reported missing in Ohio each month, according to the state's attorney general. The good news - a vast majority are found safe. But the moment you realize your child is missing is critical. You need to think fast.
"Time is of the essence in finding these children," said Toledo police officer Jim Below.
If you're a parent, it's probably happened at least once. Whether in a store or in a park, distracted for even just a moment, your child is out of sight.
"The first step would be calling 911 without hesitation and make sure there's a police crew on the way," Below said.
He also said you should call police even before you start looking. Even if your child wasn't taken, they could be wandering somewhere that's dangerous.
"There's no time that you have to wait before you call 911," Below said. "If that child is missing and especially if you have any suspicious thoughts in your head, absolutely call 911, so we can be looking for the children right away."
Missing children and runaways are treated the same by law enforcement. According to police we spoke to, the 24-hour waiting period is a myth because the seconds, minutes and hours are what matters most for the best chance at a safe return.
Take these steps to be prepared:
- Remind your children not to talk to strangers and who the parents can trust-or don’t trust-even if it's a family
- Teach your children your phone number early-and often. Below said to teach them as soon as they can learn it.
- Know what your children are wearing. It’s good practice to take daily photos with your cell phone.
As soon as your child is found, notify police. But, as long as you're looking - remain hopeful.
"Can't give up hope, and we'll do our best to find those children," said Below.