He was seemingly omnipresent in the wake of the May 2013 Seymour Avenue rescues. Angel Arroyo, a Lorain-based pastor working with Dot Com Ministries and a member of the Guardian Angels, had known the family of Gina DeJesus for years. As time went on, he became more involved in advocacy efforts on behalf of missing persons. Amanda Berry's name came up a lot.
Like many in the community, Arroyo began researching human trafficking. He became invested in the causes of the missing and he rejoiced with the rest of the city on May 6, 2013.
"We are community members tired of the violence and crime going on in our community," Arroyo says. Among many efforts, Arroyo works with the Guardian Angels to help the Junior Angels program, which seeks to assist 7- to 15-year-olds with safety techniques, dealing with everything from cyberbullying and first aid to drug awareness.
He's anchored in Northeast Ohio, of course, but his work has taken him to Rockaway and Breezy Point in the wake of Hurricane Sandy; Moore, Okla., after that city's brutal 2013 tornado; and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Looking ahead throughout 2014, Arroyo is working with the state attorney general's office to get a reformed missing persons alert system up and running. It's a three-tier system, Arroyo explains, that will make law enforcement efforts more effective when someone is reported missing. Arroyo looks back at the past decade-plus and says, "If this system had been working, maybe Gina's name could have been off that list faster or Amanda and Michelle [Knight's] names could have been off faster."
The hope is that a pilot project of sorts might please the state enough to implement the system across Ohio. Human trafficking is a major problem in northern Ohio, and Cleveland, Arroyo says, typically initiates 17- to 20-percent of all missing persons reports in the state at any given time. That equates to a great deal of pain, which Arroyo is always learning how to ease.
Perhaps, however, with a broadened system to solve these sorts of cases, there will be less pain inflicted upon the city. Arroyo dreams about that kind of future.
"Cleveland is the perfect city to put a light on. You have the Sowell case, this [Ariel Castro] case, the East Cleveland kidnappings: Just recently, you know, they've had so many different types of cases where they've had to deal with this," Arroyo says. "They know what to do and how to work with it." He cites Capt. Keith Sulzer of the Second District as a shining example of the Cleveland Division of Police at its finest.
Northeast Ohio is sure to see more of Arroyo. He says he may consider a step into the political realm someday, building off what he's been doing on the grassroots level here, and that's exactly where we need him.
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