May 11th, 2017, 11:37 PM

The Mystery of Washington DC's Missing Girls

By Mimi Camara
Image Credit: Washington Metropolitan Police Department
While Mayor Muriel E. Bowser says there is no epidemic of girls being "snatched”, critics argue that the police are trying to dismiss the problem as a simple “runaway” issue.

“Let’s find our missing girls”. That was the message two months ago from Chanel Dickerson, Washington Metropolitan Police Department’s new chief.

There have been 501 recorded missing children’s cases, and as of last week 22 cases were still open. About 35% were missing black children, and 20% were Latino, said Robert Lowery, Vice President for the missing children division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited children. Regarding Washington DC, he said, “[it is not] unique or out of the ordinary.”

Source: Media Matters

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, said “There is no epidemic in the nation’s capital of people being snatched”. Police say there has been a decrease in missing children in DC: 2,242 children were reported missing in 2016, a decrease from 2,433 in 2015. Dickerson states the police department has been using more social media to report missing persons, which in turn gets more coverage.

The sudden increase in social media posts from Twitter and Instagram has raised questions about how law enforcement and news media treat black and Latina girls. Tamika D. Mallory, a civil rights activist said “...if you allow white media to tell your story, it won’t hold out”. The frustration on social media is the prime reason why #MIssingDCGirls and #FindOurGirls have exploded. Danielle Moodie-Mills is one of many who’s Twitter post went viral, she shared an image and a post that asked, “Can someone explain to me how 14 black girls go missing in 24 hours in DC and it’s not a goddamn news story?!?”. Celebrities such as Taraji Henson, LL Cool J and Viola Davis are also standing up and asking question using the two hashtags.

Source: Teen Vogue 

Sharece Crawford, a community leader accuses the mayor and police a having a “blame the victim” mentality, and complains that they are trying to dismiss the problem as a simple “runaway” issue. Crawford said, “A new [Amber Alert] system needs to be created for the D.C government. There should be no reason why you have to go down a checklist if your child is missing.” Phylicia Henry, director of Courtney’s house, a nonprofit that aids survivors ages 12-21 who have sex- trafficked, said that a significant percentage of the girls on the missing list have been referred to her by the police.

“The biggest indicator of a young person being sex-trafficked is this revolving door of going home and leaving home,” said Henry. “To, say ‘oh they’re just running away, ‘is troubling.”

The outcry on social media is the reason why Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a new program aimed to improve the district’s response to missing children. Bowser has assigned more officers to find missing kids as well as new task force to help locate missing persons to better understand what leads young kids to run away.

Robert Lowery stated that “the natural inclination [about a runaway] is the child’s behavioral problem is why they’ve left. We also see significant numbers of runway children who are running away from a situation, whether its abuse or neglect or sexual abuse in the home. These children face unique risks when they’re gone so we applaud the conversation and we applaud the attention that this is issue is being given. “

“One missing young person is one too many,” said Bowser, promising to “do more to find and protect young people, particularly young girls of color, across our city.”