This month, 10 Black and Latina teens have vanished in the Washington, D.C. area. If you haven't heard about the disappearances, you're not alone. Not only are the missing youth not getting much airtime from the news media, but local authorities have also been significantly downplaying the matter.
In response to the missing girls of color, the Youth and Family Services Division at the Metropolitan Police Department held a press conference last Thursday, where they attempted to quell growing alarm around the disappearances.
"The number of reported missing persons is not going up," Commander Chanel Dickerson, who leads the department, said.
Police Chief Peter Newsham, who also spoke at the press conference, added: "In 2016, we had almost 1,000 fewer reports of missing persons than we had in 2012.”
According to officials, 95 percent of the children who have gone missing in 2017 have been located. In fact, some of the 10 teenagers who vanished this month have also been found in the last few days – but that hasn’t relaxed communities of color in the D.C.-Maryland-Northern Virginia (DMV) Area, and for good reason.
Black and brown residents are concerned (and vexed) that while their children account for the majority of missing youth cases they remain underrepresented in media reporting around the issue, a phenomenon termed by the late Afro-Latina PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill as "missing white woman syndrome."
This explains the absence of coverage for impoverished youth of color victims, like Maylin Reynoso, the young Dominican woman who disappeared and was later found dead in the Bronx, New York last year, and the around-the-clock reporting of middle-class white women who go missing, like 30-year-old jogger Karina Vetrano, who was beaten, raped and killed in Queens, New York in 2016 as well.
Taking matters into their own hands, local pastors, activists, parents and young people got together in the Covenant Baptists United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. on Monday to voice concern about the missing girls and the issue of sex trafficking in the District.
"Sometimes when girls of color are missing they are deemed 'runaways' and sometimes that prevents an amber alert from being sent out, they only send out amber alerts for those who are considered snatched or kidnapped," Dr.Vanetta Rather, founder of the support group My Sister My Seed, said. "It appears that when its girls of color there's not this urgency."
Eight of the ten girls – Yahshaiyah Enoch and Aniya McNeil, both 13; Juliana Otero, Jacqueline Lassey, Dashann Trikia Wallace, Dayana White and Morgan Richardson, all 15; and Talisha Coles, 16 – are still missing.
If you have any information on the whereabouts of the teenagers, contact the D.C. Police Department at (202) 727-9099.