by Yohance Kyles (@HUEYmixwitRILEY)
After significant public outcry, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser announced on Friday the city will increase the number of police officers assigned to find missing children and will also establish a task force for helping runaway children.
D.C. police faced some criticism when the department suggested most of the missing girls were likely runaways, not victims of violent crime.
That announcement was viewed by some residents as an attempt to downplay the significance of searching for the girls.
The Mayor’s office is now connecting the importance of confronting the issue of runaways to the number of missing children in the city.
“Often times, these girls are repeat runaways,” said a spokesman for the mayor, Kevin Harris. “So if we really want to help solve this problem and bring down the numbers, we have to break the cycle of young people, especially young girls, who repeatedly run away from home.”
The District’s congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton plans to introduce legislation to require the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to collect and publish broad demographic characteristics – including race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity – of missing children.
In addition, members of the Congressional Black Caucus have called for a federal investigation by the FBI.
“The Attorney General [Jeff Sessions] is aware of the reports and is looking into the issue,” said Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores.
DC police officials have suggested, despite memes featuring unnerving statistics floating around the internet, there has not been an increase in missing teenagers.
According to the Metropolitan Police, the high-profile attention on the missing girls in DC is the result of the department’s new practice of tweeting the name and photo of every “critical” missing person case in the city.
501 cases of missing children have been recorded so far in 2017 and reportedly 22 cases were open as of last Wednesday.
Many activists and politicians are still bothered by what is perceived to be the lack of attention placed on unaccounted young people of color, and some advocates draw attention to the possibility of displaced young girls being forced into sex work.
“There’s a view out there that this is a friendly kind of situation,” said Sasha Bruce Youth Network founder Deborah Shore about teenagers and children in unstable homes staying with friends or relatives. “But there are people who prey on young people. We have just seen and heard from so many young people that these arrangements are not friendly. They require some kind of payment, and often it’s for some kind of sexual favor.”
Washington, D.C. City Councilmember Trayon White told CNN, “What the community is alarmed about – we had a 10-year-old girl missing the other day, but there was no amber alert. We just feel like if this was a white person or from another neighborhood, there would be more alarm about it.”