The Washington DC Metro police department is facing growing outcry and calls for action after it began publicizing the large number of teenage girls who go missing in its jurisdiction – and the information went viral.
One post by Danielle Moodie-Mills that has been retweeted 41,000 times, claimed that 14 black girls went missing in the area over 24 hours.
Although the post was inaccurate, the reality is not much better – 10 juveniles were reported missing since March 19. Six have been found according to NBC Washington.
The police department claims this rate of missing children reports is in fact sadly normal, cases have actually been decreasing – and that their use of social media has merely highlighted the problem to an unsuspecting public.
In 2016 2,242 children were reported missing – the equivalent of six a day. In 2015, 2,433 children- equivalent to seven a day – were reported missing according to the Associated Press.
Phoenix Coldon went missing in 2011 at the age of 23. Her photo was used in the viral post about lack of media coverage about missing black girls and women
Shaniah Boyd, 14, went missing from the DC area on March 18. In the area, 10 juveniles have been reported missing since March 19
Makayla Randall went missing in 2012 at the age of 15 from Oak Park, Michigan
Police also claim the majority of the cases are teens who run away from home and subsequently return home.
Yet there remain 37 open missing minor cases in the city and all of them are black or Latino according to Huffington Post.
The viral post that began the outcry appeared to be a screengrab from a now deleted post from Entertainment for Breakfast. The post said 14 girls vanished in 24 hours and pictured four missing girls.
The women are Relisha Rudd, Phoenix Coldon, Makayla Randall and Shaniah Boyd.
Eight-year-old Relisha Rudd went missing in March 2014 from a DC homeless shelter. A janitor who worked at the shelter was found dead of apparent suicide during the search for the girl.
Derrica Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, suggested trafficking at the shelter could have been a factor: ‘They prey on the homeless, they prey on low income children, they prey on the runaways, they prey online.’
The post also shows Phoenix Coldon who went missing in 2011 at the age of 23 from St. Louis and Makayla Randall who went missing in 2012 at the age of 15 from Michigan.
Coldron’s Chevy Blazer was discovered 25 minutes away from her home in East St. Louis. She was a student at the University of Missouri – St. Louis.
Randall is believed to have traveled to Michigan or Tennessee and is considered a possible runaway.
Shaniah Boyd is also pictured and went missing on March 18 in DC. She has not been found.
The District of Columbia logged 501 cases of missing juveniles, many of them black or Latino, in the first three months of this year, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. Twenty-two were unsolved as of March 22.
All of the minors who were found left home voluntarily and there is no evidence they were the victims of trafficking.
Police spokeswoman Karimah Bilal told NBC: ‘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.’
According to local police data, the number of missing child cases in the District dropped from 2,433 in 2015 to 2,242 in 2016. The highest total recently, 2,610, was back in 2001.
But the increased social media attention has caused concern in the U.S. capital area, which has long had a large minority population and is currently about 48 percent black. Hundreds of people packed a town-hall style meeting at a neighborhood school on Wednesday to express concern about the missing children cases.
‘Ten children of color went missing in our nation’s capital in a period of two weeks and at first garnered very little media attention. That’s deeply disturbing,’ Congressional Black Caucus chairman Representative Cedric Richmond said in a letter obtained by the Associated Press.
Wilson said that despite the assurances from police, it was alarming for so many children to go missing around the same time. On Tuesday night, she noted, her group had four reports of missing children and only one had been found.
‘We can’t focus on the numbers. If we have one missing child, that’s one too many,’ Wilson said.
Information from the National Crime Information Center showed there were 170,899 missing black children under 18 in the United States, more than any other category except for the white/Hispanic combined number of 264,443. Both numbers increased from the year before, which saw 169,655 missing black children and 262,177 missing white/Hispanic children.
‘Whether these recent disappearances are an anomaly or signals of underlying trends, it is essential that the Department of Justice and the FBI use all of the tools at their disposal to help local officials investigate these events, and return these children to their parents as soon as possible,’ Richmond said.
Police told NBC Washingtonthe number of girls and women reported missing hasn’t actually spiked like the now deleted post from Entertainment for Breakfast alleges.
The claim of 14 girls going missing in 24 hours was spread by high profile and celebrity accounts such as Russell Simmons, Taraji P. Henson and rapper LL Cool J.