Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser announced on Friday that the city will dedicate more resources including a task force to help find missing youth in the District. This announcement was made amidst public outcry of the number of teenage girls—mostly Black and Latino—that have gone missing in the past few weeks.
According to The Washington Post, Bowser will increase the number of police officers assigned to find missing children and establish a task force to determine what social services teenagers who run away need to stabilize their home lives. In addition, the city plans to allocate more funds to nonprofit organizations that work with vulnerable teenagers.
Bowser stressed that not all of the responsibility to care for teens should fall on the district’s police department. And despite the media headlines that suggest that these girls have been abducted, she believes that most of these teens were runways.
“Often times, these girls are repeat runaways,” said Kevin Harris, a spokesman for the mayor.
“So if we really want to help solve this problem and bring down the numbers, we have to break the cycle of young people, especially young girls, who repeatedly run away from home.”
Yet advocates for young people at risk point out that even if these children are runaways, they are still incredibly vulnerable to abuse, violence and sexual exploitation.
“There’s a view out there that this is a friendly kind of situation,” Deborah Shore, founder of the Sasha Bruce Youth Network, told The WaPo.
“But there are people who prey on young people. We have just seen and heard from so many young people that these arrangements are not friendly. They require some kind of payment, and often it’s for some kind of sexual favor.”
This task force was announced during the same week that Congressional Black Congress members sent a letter to the Department of Justice and the FBI asking them to use their resources to help the district search for their lost youth.
We previously reported that Congressional Black Caucus chairman Cedric Richmond, D-La., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton asked Jeff Sessions and James Comey: [Please] 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.”
They added: “Ten children of color went missing in our nation’s capital in a period of two weeks and at first garnered very little media attention. That’s deeply disturbing.”