WASHINGTON ― Last week, The Huffington Post and other news outlets published stories about the number of missing black and Latinx teenagers in the nation’s capital. In the time since, Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department has tried to address concerns about the rate of missing teens. 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 uptick. She added that there’s no evidence to suggest the recent missing-person reports are somehow related to human trafficking.
Bowser’s remarks didn’t do much to reassure D.C. locals or social media users. On Wednesday, tensions between the police and the predominantly black residents of Ward 8 flared during a town hall held to further address concerns. D.C.’s interim police Chief Peter Newsham, who at times seemed slightly dismissive of residents’ concerns about trafficking, was interrupted several times by attendees who wanted more concrete answers from the department. One woman told the panel that while the current cases of missing teens may not be linked to human trafficking, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening in general.
In truth, this is a complicated issue. MPD’s stance is that more kids aren’t being reported missing, there’s no evidence of human traffickers taking these teens and police are actively doing their best to make sure all the teens come home safely. But some members of the community aren’t convinced that the police are as concerned about the missing teens as them. There are also questions about which missing kids 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.
The Huffington Post is going to answer some of these questions for you. If you have any questions not addressed here that you’d like answered, please submit them using this Google form. We’ll update this post if we can provide an answer.
Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Melissa Young, the grandmother of Relisha Rudd, wears a shirt honoring the missing young girl during the celebration of the girl’s 11th birthday in October 2016. Rudd disappeared in March 2014 when her family was living at the D.C. General homeless shelter.
How many juveniles are missing in D.C. right now?
Twenty-two as of March 22, according to MPD.
Is that number going to change?
Almost certainly ― the number fluctuates quite a bit. MPD closes 95 percent of missing-person cases, and there’s no minimum waiting period if someone wants to report a kid missing. So the department might tweet about a missing child on Tuesday, for example, but by Wednesday the child will have been located.
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, 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.”