Twitter has been abuzz with outraged tweets from many people across the country and globe, including celebrities such as LL Cool J, who are demanding to know why law enforcement isn’t more actively investigating the horrifying disappearance of fourteen black and Latina District of Columbia girls, ages thirteen to eighteen, who allegedly went missing in the city within twenty-four hours on Wednesday. The implications of that number alone leaves everyone speechless — a massive military manhunt should be underway, the public should be aware and vigilant, there should be press conferences and perhaps school closings. Fourteen girls in a relatively small area, taken from the streets within 24 hours, is a horrifying prospect. Indeed it is. The only problem is that thankfully, it did not happen.
According to Mic, the missing DC girls are heart-breakingly real, but the meme that has been circulating on social media and information surrounding them is patently untrue. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia said that at no point in recent or remote history have fourteen girls disappeared from the city within a 24-hour span of time. To further complicate the rumors, there has been no increase at all in the amount of missing people in the District of Columbia, and that the numbers of missing people actually decreased in the years 2015 and 2016.
According to the New York Times, a new approach by the Metropolitan Police Department to raise awareness about missing children is one that utilizes social media to post pictures and facts about missing children and the new campaign began in January 2017. Before that campaign, information about certain endangered missing children was posted sporadically on Twitter. After police began posting nearly all cases, however, the public misinterpreted that action to mean that a sharp increase of missing children was occurring, a conjecture that is an honest mistake but is simply not true. In other words, there has been no incident in which a large amount of DC children of any color went missing over a short amount of time. Instead, the police are hoping to use one of the best ways they have to disseminate information — through the use of social media — to raise public awareness about those that have gone missing, the majority of which are not believed to be abductions. The number of children missing is no greater now that it has ever been, but the push to find these missing children has included different methods of finding them.
Margarita Mikhaylova, a spokeswoman for the Police Department, explained that there has been no singular incident or increased cases of missing children in the DC Metropolitan area.
“They leave voluntarily, they come back voluntarily or they are located. Some of the circumstances that would lead an individual to leave home, that is a very complex issue. They need to be talked about in the community with as much gravity as anything.”
Ms. Mikhaylova said that while human trafficking is a serious issue in many locations across the world, “we don’t have an indication that that is what is going on.”
In fact, as of Friday, none of the missing children cases were considered abductions. That doesn’t mean the children are not endangered, as leaving one’s family unit for the streets can certainly lead to serious implications, but it does mean that there is not any evidence that a sole individual, or group of individuals, is stealing children.
However, according to WESH, there is a real discrepancy between the amount of publicity that white and black missing children receive. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are calling for a federal investigation into the issue that while 1/3 of missing children are of color, some statistics show that they receive less than 20 percent of publicity related to missing cases. Lawmakers asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey to directly address the issue and discrepancy.
“…we need 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. When children of color go missing, authorities often assume they are runaways rather than victims of abduction.”
[Featured Image by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]