true crime

In this one tiny American community, 33 kids have gone missing.

Hardly a day goes by without another story about Madeleine McCann. But in Missouri, there’s one small community that has reported 33 kids missing, and they barely rate a mention in the news.

It’s Berkeley, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri, with a total population of only about 9000. Parents are distraught that not enough is being done to find their children. Most of them are teens. Most of them are black. Shardae Edwards, 14. Marshay Brown, 14. Alexis Green, 15. The list goes on and on.

In the St Louis metropolitan area as a whole, 219 young people have gone missing since 2000, according to a Fox 2 News investigation.

Lawrence Coldon is still looking for his daughter, Phoenix, who disappeared in 2011.

missing kids in America
Phoenix disappeared from the town in 2011. (Image: Fox 2 News)
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“It’s a terrible, crying, deplorable shame that so many people can come up missing in this country with a country with the type of resources that we have,” he says.

Coldon believes Phoenix might have been forced into sex slavery. This isn’t just wild speculation. The St Louis County Police Department has a special unit set up to rescue sex slaves. Officers are aware that when they pull over cars for traffic stops, they need to keep an eye out for missing girls who are being held captive.

“We talk to a lot of the girls and a lot of them were just walking down the street, skip school, they're running away, they're walking down the street and then somebody will pull up and say, ‘Hey, where are you headed to?’” Sergeant Adam Kavanaugh says.

Earlier this year, Kyle Parks was convicted after bringing four teenagers from Ohio to Missouri to work as prostitutes. He was arrested in a motel room after police tracked the phone of one of the girls, who was just 15. He was sentenced to 25 years jail.

33 children have been reported missing from the small town in Missouri. (Image: Fox 2 News)

It’s believed Midwestern states like Missouri are popular with sex traffickers because they’re centrally located and have extensive highway systems. Victims can be quickly transported to any part of the country. There were 79 reports of sex trafficking in Missouri just in the first nine months of last year.

State Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal has warned parents about the rise in kidnappings on her Facebook page.

“Please keep your children in sight,” she posted.

“And even if they are teenagers, make sure they have a tracking device on their phones. Instruct them to keep it on when they leave the house. This is serious.”

Kimberly Ritter is the director of development for Exchange Initiative, which encourages people to photograph hotel rooms as a way of locating and rescuing victims. She’s fighting to end sex trafficking.

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She believes people who have enslaved children for sex might also be keeping them in abandoned buildings.

“You have to be aware, because if you pay attention you may be able to save a child,” Ritter says.

Ritter has told Global Sisters Report that human trafficking is on the rise in all 50 states.

“This is not something that just happens to the runaway kids or those in foster care. If your child has a computer, they are at risk for a predator.

“I spent the last six years working to rescue kids from this crime. I would rather prevent this than rescue victims. Prevention is key to ending human trafficking.”

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