#MissingDCGirls (2017) trended on Twitter this week. Celebrities, like Taraji P. Henson, Russell Simmons and LL Cool J, tweeted that 14 girls in Washington, DC had gone missing within a single day. It became a top hashtag on Twitter, causing even Fox News to report it.
Last June in New York there were 14 girls missing in the Bronx. Like in the DC case, they all seemed to be Black or Latina.
What is going on? Is there some kind of east coast sex trafficking ring snatching girls off the street? Are they wanted for their organs? What?
As it turns out, both the Bronx and DC cases were an artefact of computers.
In the Bronx case, 11 of the girls were already safe at home: the police had forgotten to update their computers – and the press took the claim at face value.
In the DC case, there never were 14 girls who had disappeared in a single day. That was a rumour spread by Twitter. Instead, the DC police had reported ten cases of missing children since Sunday March 19th. By Friday the 24th, only four were still missing. Even one is one too many, of course, but the numbers have been wildly exaggerated.
The number of missing people in DC has been going down: from 4,531 in 2014, to 3,547 in 2016, to 774 cases so far in 2017, a lower rate than last year.
That “774 cases so far in 2017” sounds horrifying, but most cases are closed within 48 hours. As of March 24th, only 38 of those cases were currently open, six of them girls:
- Shaniah Boyd, since 3/18/2017
- Chareah Payne, since 3/17/2017
- Dashann Wallace, since 3/8/2017
- Chantese Zimmerman, since 2/16/2017
- Demetria Carthens, since 2/7/2017
- Faith Nelson, since 1/13/2017
All the missing girls so far this year have been runaways, often from domestic abuse. There is, currently, no sex trafficking ring snatching them off the streets.
Over the past ten years in DC there has been no sudden increase in missing children.
What has suddenly increased is the number of tweets by the DC police about missing people. That means they are now finding them more quickly, which is great, but the tweets make it seem like the number of missing people in DC has suddenly gone up – particularly girls since their cases are more likely to be retweeted.
White media: The story has broken through to the White media only because of Twitter. Although the Missing White Woman Syndrome is not as common as it was, say, back in 2004, the press still under-reports missing Black people. Black children account for 33% of the missing, but only 20% of those covered by the press.
Tips from the DC police:
- Keep a current colour photo of your child and a complete description (height, weight, braces, scars, etc). Dental records are important.
- If you think you see a missing person, report it to the police, even if you are not sure.
- If you see a child who should be in school, report it.
- Do not let a child stay overnight at your house without the parents’ permission.
– Abagond, 2017.
- DC police:
- The Missing White Woman Syndrome
- Missing Black women:
- Fox News
- Washington, DC
- Russell Simmons
- Taraji P. Henson – Empire
- LL Cool J – Accidental Racist