The internet was abuzz last week with reports about Washington, D.C.'s "missing girls" after an Instagram post last Thursday erroneously claimed that 14 girls of African American or Latina descent had disappeared in the nation's capital in 24 hours. The post was ultimately found to be inaccurate after D.C. police commented on the matter; however, girls going missing in D.C. is nonetheless a terrifying issue that deserves more attention nationwide.
While the "14 girls in one day" statistic cited by Thursday's Instagram post may have not been accurate, there are still, unfortunately, many missing children in D.C. According to the Washington, D.C. Police Department, 501 juveniles have gone missing in 2017 and the vast majority of these children are African American or Latinx. Of these 501 cases, 22 currently remain open.
According to Chanel Dickerson, the new commander of the D.C. Police Youth and Family Services Division, this number actually marks a decrease in the number of missing children in D.C. when compared with previous years. Dickerson further asserted that the cases are receiving more media attention not because they mark a deviation from the norm, but because the police department has started actively sharing missing persons fliers on Twitter. Since March 19, 11 missing children fliers have been posted on the D.C. Police Twitter account; as of Sunday, six children had been found and five were still missing.
According to the D.C. police website, all of the children who remain missing were identified as black or Hispanic. Among others, they include 15-year-old Chantese Zimmerman, who was last seen in February in Northeast D.C. and 14-year-old Shaniah Boyd, who was last seen on March 18 in Southeast D.C. According to police spokesperson Karimah Bilal, all of the children reported missing so far in D.C. this year have left their homes voluntarily; however this, of course, does not in any way diminish the importance of looking for them.
While the cases of missing children, particularly girls, in D.C. have recently received a lot of attention, history shows that the cases of children of color going missing are vastly underreported in the media, when compared to cases of white children going missing. Thus, it is critical that the public continues to pay attention to and share information about D.C.'s missing juveniles, as well as spread information about missing children in their own hometowns. You can find a list of missing persons in D.C. on the Washington, D.C. Police Department's website, which is updated daily. Please consider using this list to regularly share information about the children who still remain missing to continue to bring attention to their cases.
While the number of girls (and boys) missing in D.C. is thankfully not nearly at prolific as first reported on social media, the fact remains that young children and teenagers still remain missing in the nation's capital and the public can actively play a role in helping locate these children by spreading information about their status.