Metropolitan (D.C.) Police Department

On March 12, 2017, I wrote about the number of black and Latino teens who have gone missing in the Washington, D.C., area since February. At the time, 10 teens, including one young man, were missing. The Metropolitan (D.C.) Police Department reported that a few had been found, but there were still missing cases open.

Before I wrote that initial article, the only mention of these missing teens had come in a couple of tweets from individuals expressing their concerns, as well as tweets from the Metropolitan Police Department. After the article caught the department’s attention, the MPD noted that sometimes it fails to update its social accounts with information about teens who have been located.

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Within two days, other websites, like Teen Vogue (which directly quoted my article and used a similar headline), wrote about the missing teens, too.

On Wednesday, there was a town hall meeting held in D.C. in response to the missing girls. The room was filled with black men and women who wanted answers. But of course, even in a city noted for its rising gentrification, there was not one white face in the crowd.

Mayor Muriel Bowser, acting D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham and Council Member Trayon White attended the town hall and denied that there has been an increase in the number of missing teens, even though there are currently 22 cases in the District.

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“There is no case being swept under the rug; there is no child being left behind,” Bowser said.

Newsham also tried to assure the crowd that the uptick in cases is not true and that the reason the topic is being discussed now is that the department is using social media to draw attention to those who are missing.

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“The disturbing fact is that we do have that many kids who go missing in our city,” he said. “And it’s been that way for a long time.”

But where are the missing? Sure, as I said previously, some were runaways and do return home. But that can’t be true of all 22 people currently missing.

Last week Bowser had the audacity to deny that any of the cases could possibly be related to human trafficking, which is an issue across the country. I find it hard to believe that she could blatantly deny any connection when there have been cases of D.C. police officers running their own prostitution rings.

Earlier in March, Newsham cited statistics regarding the cases D.C. is currently dealing with.

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“The overwhelming majority of our missing persons quickly return home or are located. So far in 2017, 95 percent of our cases have been closed. In 2016 we had almost 1,000 fewer reports of missing persons than we had in 2012,” Newsham said.

In February, Police Cmdr. Chanel Dickerson, the head of the MPD’s Youth and Family Services Division, said that since 2012, 200 juveniles had been reported missing each month but that the number had decreased to 190 per month starting in 2017. Dickerson stated that so far in 2017, 674 out of 708 missing-persons reports have been closed.

But with 22 teens reported missing over the last two months, that’s still 22 too many. And 22 too many to deny that there could possibly be an issue with trafficking in the area. I’m not an expert in sex trafficking, but one reason it’s plaguing the country is that these people move in silence. They’re your everyday police officers (see above) and average joes out here pimping young teens (and I’m not going to just say girls, because it happens to boys, too).

Bowser may not know about sex trafficking going on, but teens are talking to one another about it, according to Roxie Farrow, executive director of the Exodus Project.

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“Our children are talking about it,” she said. “Every time we have a workshop in our schools.”

On Friday at 1 p.m., Bowser will hold a Facebook Live with Dickerson to discuss D.C.’s missing teens.