The public and local authorities are at odds over the frequency of Black and Latina girls going missing. What all agree upon is a need to find them, while stopping the tragedy altogether.

Nationally, the story has received more coverage, with several national newspapers and magazines running articles. Congressional Black Caucus members asked 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. “The Washington Metropolitan Police Department’s Youth and Family Services Commander, Chanel Dickerson, pledged to find the missing girls. Yet, during a March 16 press conference, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said that the yearly rate of people reported missing in the District has remained constant since 2014, meaning the latest reports don’t constitute an increase. Bowser also suggested there’s no evidence to suggest the recent missing-person reports are related to human trafficking.

However, D.C. residents and social media users aren’t buying Bowser’s logic. This schism was evident at a recent town hall where tensions between the police and the predominantly Black residents of Ward 8 flared. Residents felt they weren’t receiving the concrete answers from the department they sought. Several expressed feelings missing girls of color receive different treatment than missing white girls. This though was echoed by members of the Congressional Black Caucus who called for a national investigation into the cases.
“(W)hen children of color go missing, authorities often assume they are runaways rather than victims of abduction,” they stated in a letter to Sessions.

Some members of the community aren’t convinced that police are as concerned about the missing teens as them. There are also questions about which missing youth get Amber Alerts, what the department is doing to combat the stigma surrounding runaways and why no one seems to know the precise number of missing teens.

At least 501 out of 774 people reported missing in D.C. this year are juveniles. MPD has closed 95 percent of missing persons cases this year, D.C.’s interim police Chief Peter Newsham said, and he assured the public that most teens reported missing are ultimately located or returned home. The department is also making an effort to publicize information about every missing person deemed “critically missing.”

By Aswad Walker