Earlier this month, Washington D.C.’s police department beefed up their efforts to help find a bevy of missing black and latinx teenagers by sharing their images and information on social media. According to NBC Washington, out of the 20 missing people whose images were posted online since March 19, 10 of them are adolescents. The site adds that six of those missing children were found and investigations into locating the other four people are still ongoing.
The concerning news of those absent kids — majority are girls — sparked a call for action across the nation, igniting town hall meetings on what should be done to return these teens to their homes. According to the Associated Press, members of the Congressional Black Caucus called upon the Justice Department to act swiftly and effectively on the matter, and 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.” AP adds that missing child cases dropped from 2,433 in 2015 to 2,242 in 2016 within D.C.
Radio host Joe Clair recently spoke with Chanel Dickerson, a leader of the D.C. Police Youth and Family Services Division, on the situation. During the morning show program, Clair asked the official for background information on why the number of missing children drastically increased in a short amount of time. Dickerson stated that most of these cases involve children who run away from home, but their reasoning for doing so is still unknown.
“I have no idea, I’m just trying to get to the bottom of it,” Dickerson said. “I’m trying to solicit help from communities and faith-based organizations to find out the root cause why so many young people in our city are voluntarily leaving home.”
Dickerson was then asked what are a few precautionary solutions that could help keep a child from becoming a victim of human trafficking. “Stay home, it’s as simple as that,” Dickerson said. “If they stay home, it reduces the risk. I’m not saying that’s the fix-all but that’s where we have to start. We have to start small, this is a problem and it’ll take a community effort, but we have to start small.”
The statement garnered puzzled responses from social media users, including D.C. rapper Wale.
Or maybe… u know come up with a plan? https://t.co/7uK6tDIWnj
— Wale (@Wale) March 22, 2017
DC police asks youth to ‘stay at home’ to avoid being trafficked. Suggests a certain helplessness on their part. That’s scary, even in DC.
— Hoffer He (@Jojikool15) March 24, 2017
So the DC Police department “Advise teenager to stay home to avoid Human trafficking” .. pic.twitter.com/DbgCM1AyOK
— bigga m. (@Mulanni_) March 23, 2017
That DC cop that said, “If you dont wanna be kidnapped, stay home.” wasnt bein dismissive. 500 girls missing since Jan. She knows something.
— Writey McScriberson (@afroSHIRL) March 25, 2017
And the best advice DC’s police had to offer was to stay at home?!?!
— lil lemon pound cake (@xojasmyn_) March 24, 2017
Yalls President can speak on so many alternative facts & fictitious events, but what has he said about these missing girls in Washington DC
— ?Porscha Keyana? (@miss_Keyana) March 24, 2017
A girl could be a runaway and *still* be lured into sex trafficking.
— Terrell J. Starr (@Russian_Starr) March 25, 2017
Concerns of a human trafficking epidemic brewing in the nation’s capital became a topic of conversation and consideration when the news of the missing teens surfaced. According to police spokeswoman Karimah Bilal, that is not the case. “Because of the number of releases, there have been concerns that young girls in the District of Columbia are victims of human trafficking or have been kidnapped,” Bilal said. “We look at every case closely to make sure that doesn’t happen, but to my knowledge, that hasn’t been a factor in any of our missing person cases.” Dickerson adds that law enforcement officials have “no evidence in any of these cases that anyone was kidnapped or is the victim of sex trafficking.”
A mixture of pleas for help to separating false information from the facts appeared on social media websites, showcasing that this issue must be approached with caution and action.
— Simone Missick (@SimoneMissick) March 24, 2017
I’ve had Metropolitan Police (aka DC police) officers in my texts and emails all day. Here’s what’s been explained to me by FOUR different officers: Earlier this year, the new police chief (acting since September 2016, appointed officially at the end of Feb.) started an initiative to share information about missing PEOPLE of all colors and sexes on social media as it’s the quickest way to spread photos and information about missing persons. The change has brought greater awareness about missing PEOPLE in DC, black girls being among that group. Yes. There are black girls missing. And even ONE child missing is cause for great concern. But there is no sudden spike in the numbers. And for 2017, all of the missing teens, boys and girls, that have been found — most of the reported missing have been– left voluntarily. The police force does not fear there is increased organ harvesting, human trafficking, kidnapping, serial killer, etc. in the area. Again, there is no spike in the numbers of missing PEOPLE, including black girls. And yes, I know this runs contrary to most of what you’ve been seeing on social media. And there is no compelling reason to take the word of a writer with anonymous sources (officers can’t give interviews on record without going thru substantial red tape). But I’m not the only one researching and talking to folk on the ground. NBC Washington has a break down of the story and says the EXACT same thing the officers have been telling me all day. Check it out in my profile. The article also explains the lack of Amber alerts, which I know was a compelling concern for many. READ THE ARTICLE. Let me know your thoughts. #bringbackourgirls #bringbackourboys • Also, The Wire character is “Slim Charles”. Long before the show, he was forever (and will forever be) known as “Big G” in DC. My bad for combining the names. The other stuff still stands.