CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Division of Police and the FBI of Greater Cleveland joined forces Thursday for a special missing persons initiative.
Mobile command centers were deployed to Seymour Avenue on the city’s west side and along East 93rd Street on the city’s east side.
Agents were inside the mobile units meeting with citizens concerned about any missing persons cases. Citizens were also encouraged to discuss any criminal activity or concerns they might have.
“If they’re not going to come to us, we’re going to go to them,” said Commander Keith Sulzer, 2nd District Commander.
There are approximately 140 missing persons in Cleveland, but the number changes by the day.
Police say in order to find them, families must act quickly when their loved one vanishes.
“There used to be a myth to wait a certain amount of time, but no, when your loved one is missing, notify the police and try to have a photo of that loved one available,” said Sgt. Sammy Morris with the Cleveland Division of Police.
The meeting posts were open from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. and officers also went door to door.
The Guardian Angels passed out flyers and a representative from the counseling and rehab center Bellfaire was also there.
Program Manager Karen McHenry said, “We provide services and safety plans to bring youth back home to their families or get them to a safe place.”
She says young people or anyone in trouble can call their hotline 24/7 at 216-570-8010.
One family desperate for answers was also speaking out.
Joyce Leszyeski said her 21-year-old daughter, Ashley Leszyeski, has been missing for two weeks.
She was last seen near her east side home in Cleveland in the vicinity of East 93rd Street and Union.
Joyce struggled through tears to say, “We’re looking for you, please come home Ashley, we need you.”
Family members say the young mother would never leave her children.
“Absolutely not! She wouldn’t leave her kids,” said Tina Leszyeski, Ashley’s sister.
Cleveland police are looking for Ashley and have posted her information on their missing persons website.
Fox 8 has also launched an initiative with law enforcement to locate missing people in Northeast Ohio.
Missing people are highlighted on Fox 8 newscasts and on FOX8.com.
Commander Sulzer says, “Every month we follow up on every missing person that we have.”
But police say it’s important that families provide the proper information needed to look for their loved one, and they must stay in touch with law enforcement.
Thursday’s event was about strengthening the partnership between police and the community, since they are the eyes and ears of the city.
An alert good Samaritan helped rescue Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight and a child.
Police want other families to get the same happy ending.
Saturday is National Children’s Day and Cleveland police and the FBI are holding an event so that families are prepared if their child ever disappears.
The FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force, the Cleveland police department, and FBI Citizen Academy Foundation members will be handing out child identification kits on Saturday, May 25, at Westtown Shopping Center at West 110th and Lorain Avenue from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The child identification kit is a proactive measure for parents to complete and keep in their possession, hoping that the kit is never used.
Kits are also available to order from the National Child ID Program or to download from Google Play on Android phones and on iPhones.