TEHRAN, March 29, YJC - Conflicting reports about a hike in the number of missing black and Latina girls in Washington, DC, have caused uproar among African American and Latin American communities.
TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club
(YJC)- The social media exploded with outrage when users noticed that DC police had shared at least 20 missing person fliers on Twitter between March 19 and March 24, nearly a dozen of them black teens aged 11-17.
Police came under pressure to address the issue when some social media sites claimed that 14 Latina and black girls had gone missing over just 24 hours.
The reports led some people to believe that police were intentionally hiding the extent of the problem to avoid criticism.
‘501 girls reported missing’
According to official reports, 501 girls have been reported missing in the DC area since the beginning of 2017.
The horrifying number prompted Congressional Black Caucus to send a letter to FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week, calling on them to help investigate the missing cases.
CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond asked Comey and Sessions in the letter to "devote the resources necessary to determine whether these developments are an anomaly or whether they are indicative of an underlying trend that must be addressed.”
The DC Metro Police Department, however, refuted the claims, arguing that there was no increase in the number and if anything it had dropped from last year.
"We've just been posting them on social media more often,” said Rachel Reid, a spokesperson for the DC police.
Police noted that there were still 22 open cases involving missing teens in Washington, DC, as of March 22, and 13 open cases as of March 27.
Chanel Dickerson, head of the department’s Youth and Family Services division, argued that the recent posting of the missing girls was only meant to raise awareness.
Police have also downplayed reports that the missing girls were being forced into prostitution, arguing that most cases were simply run-away girls that were found days later.
acting D.C. police chief Peter Newsham tried to address concerns among some residents that children were being abducted by child sex traffickers.
"A lot of people think [sex trafficking] is the only circumstance where someone snatches a child off the street, and that can occur,” acting DC Police Chief Peter Newsham said at a community meeting on missing children last week.
"But what’s more likely to occur is it could be a family situation,” he said.