RUST BELT COLLAPSE: Ohio’s Runaway Children

Well, it’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Let’s get right to it.

As an Ohioan, I can safely say that human trafficking is a real and persistent issue. I assert my claim with this phrasing because within the past few months, I went into Casey’s (a gas station found across the Midwest and Rust Belt) to use the bathroom. Near the urinals, on the inside of the open stall door, I saw a sticker with big letters:


Under that, a phone number to call if you needed help. Underneath the hotline number, the the dangers and reality of sex trafficking were detailed. The startling truth is, across Ohio, in 2023 alone:

  • A man convicted in a child sex trafficking operation was sentenced to 40 years in prison…
  • Another man was also sentenced to 40 years in prison for trafficking a juvenile…
  • In Cincinnati, a man was arrested and federally charged with exploiting teen girls and sex trafficking…
  • A man in Cleveland was sentenced to 3 years in prison for engaging in the kidnapping of a human trafficking victim…

Last month, the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force said that human trafficking remains an issue in central Ohio, especially in metropolitan areas. Maria Busch, of the Task Force, told 10 WBNS Columbus that human trafficking happens all over Ohio in many different forms.

Typically, according to Busch, it happens to those who are most vulnerable such as those experiencing homelessness, housing instability, or undocumented people.

Last month, Forbes reported of “data suggesting an existing problem” in Cleveland related to an “alarming” trend of missing children.

Of 15,555 children reported missing in Ohio in 2022, 14,940 were recovered by the end of the year, according to data released by Ohio’s Attorney General.

A source close to Boomer Mindset, an experienced cop working the beat in a Rust Belt area for years, detailed the situation (their comments henceforth quoted).

Across the country but extremely so in dilapidated, poverty-stricken areas of the Rust Belt, there’s “zero social cohesion or control” when it comes to juveniles.

Juveniles are out of control now in a Pandora’s box way. Cops discuss it daily and have no answers.

In the impoverished and forgotten districts of the Rust Belt, “kids run away nonstop… so missing persons reports are required for a variety of reasons”.

Since COVID, chronic absenteeism saw an increase across many school districts in Ohio.

In 2020, rates of absentee students missing school across the country rose to 24% up from 11% from the previous year.

For the 2021-2022 school year, more than 30% of Ohio’s school students were chronically absent.

By Veillantif - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
This map represents the change in per capita personal income from 1980 to 2002 within the Rust Belt. Green is income above average, red is income below average (and decreasing further) over about 20 years.

Clearly, there is an existing problem and it’s long been spiraling out of control. Societal cohesion, the very social contract itself, has gone by the wayside as we go further into the new millennium.

As areas of the Rust Belt become even more impoverished, without jobs, and unstable and unsecure, the rot will further spread. It is without a doubt that the institutions and systems in America have failed the average citizen and now exist only to benefit the rich and ultra-rich 1%.

To really comprehend the staggering and tumultuous change the Rust Belt has experienced, we can look at pre-NAFTA (1980 to 1993) and post-NAFTA statistics (1994 and beyond)

Annual GDP growth per capita has seen a 2.6% decrease since NAFTA. The Gini Coefficient – which measures wealth inequality – has seen a rise of 3.2% since then. Not to mention the overwhelming decrease in personal income per capita as shown in the map above.

The Rust Belt has been completely hollowed out and exists only as a shell of its former self, of what it once stood for.

Join Boomer Mindset for future installments in the “Rust Belt Collapse” series as we delve into the forgotten people and communities of the United States.