Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has announced that a task force will be created to help police find children who go missing in the district
The announcement follows a town hall meeting held Wednesday, when residents and community leaders—including Bowser—gathered to discuss the city’s missing Black and Latinx teen girls, reports The Washington Post.
According to The Washington Post, the task force will help determine what social services are needed by teenagers who run away. Bowser will also increase the number of police assigned to help find missing children, and is challenging the notion that most of the city’s missing children are runaways and not necessarily abductees.
“Often times, these girls are repeat runaways,” Kevin Harris, a spokesman for the mayor, told The Washington Post. “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.”
But Deborah Shore, founder of the Sasha Bruce Youth Network and a homeless youth advocate, makes a critical assertion.
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“We are a city of many disparities,” Shore said. “Young people who don’t have a lot of resources and are in a situation that is unstable, they are pretty vulnerable.”
Shore continued, “There’s a view out there that this is a friendly kind of situation, 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.”
In addition to Bowser’s initiatives, national media outlets like New York Daily News and “Good Morning America” have began running stories, further shifting attention to the District’s missing Black and Latinx teens.
“This is what the [social media] policy was intended to do,” Harris said. “It was intended to get these teens’ faces out there. It was intended to provoke conversation. We don’t ever want this to become the norm.”