The Congressional Black Caucus recently reached out to the Justice Department and FBI, asking the federal agencies to help local police investigate a rash of black and Hispanic missing teens in the nation’s capital.*
The letter, obtained Thursday by the Associated Press, was sent by Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the Washington, D.C., in Congress.
They called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey 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.”
D.C. police officials maintain that there has been no increase in the number of missing persons in their jurisdiction. 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.
However, D.C. residents feel like one child missing is too many. Hundreds of people packed a town hall style meeting at a neighborhood school Wednesday to express concern about the missing-children cases and ask about why these children were not receiving Amber Alerts—to which a police representative reportedly responded by saying that they are issued only when a child is abducted.
Many black children are labeled runaways, Natalie Wilson, co-founder and chief operations officer of the Black and Missing Foundation, said to USA Today. “They do not get an Amber Alert or media coverage.”
According to the Black and Missing foundation, nearly 37 percent of missing children nationwide are black. The National Crime Information Center showed that there were 170,899 missing black children under age 18 in the United States, significantly disproportionate to their population numbers.
Derrica Wilson, co-founder, president and CEO of the Black and Missing Foundation, said that she is concerned about whether human trafficking is a factor.
“They prey on the homeless, they prey on low-income children, they prey on the runaways, they prey online,” Wilson said.
“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.
Richmond also said that he hopes to meet with Sessions and bring up the issue, but no meeting is currently scheduled.
*Shoutout to The Root’s Yesha Callahan for breaking this story wide open.