DC launches new initiatives to address missing persons cases

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled six new initiatives to address concerns about the number of missing persons cases in the city, particularly those involving African-American teenage girls.

“One missing young person, is one too many, and these new initiatives will help us do more to find and protect young people, particularly young girls of color, across our city,” said Mayor Bowser.

The first initiative will increase the number of Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers assigned to the Youth and Family Services Division. These officers will work to locate youth that are reported missing.

The second initiative will expand the information provided on MPD's missing persons website and social media accounts about each missing persons case.

The third initiative establishes the Missing Persons Evaluation and Reconnection Resources Collaborative. This will pair the MPD with the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants (OVSJG), and community organizations to evaluate each youth who is found or returns home. They will look at the reasons why the youth left and provide additional resources if necessary to the child and family.

The fourth initiative created a working group with the OVSJG and CFSA to analyze open cases and trends and manage resource requests. A preliminary meeting has already taken place.

The fifth initiative will provide additional grants to non-profits that address runaway youth and their parents/guardians.

The sixth initiative will create PSAs to promote the 800RUNAWAY hotline and website.

The initiatives were applauded by community leaders that have been working on the issue.

"This is the first time that I’ve seen this. Go, Mayor Bowser," said ANC 8C03 Commissioner Sharece Crawford. She had requested several of these initiatives in a resolution letter she sent to the mayor. She also organized a town hall on the issue earlier in the week.

For the past two weeks, MPD leaders have said that the number of missing persons cases are actually going down and the perceived increase is because the new commander of the Youth and Family Services Division, Chanel Dickerson, made the decision to start promoting each critical missing persons case on social media.

Crawford said the focus shouldn't be about how the case numbers are dropping, but that there are as many cases as there are.

"The concern is how are we going to find these people. What are the plans being put in place? What’s the resolution? What’s the strategy?" added Crawford.

The announcement of the initiatives also comes on the heels of the issue getting national attention.

The Congressional Black Caucus wrote a letter to the FBI and Department of Justice requesting the organizations dedicate resources to the issue. D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton announced she would introduce a bill to collect and publish data on missing children.

Meanwhile, several celebrities, like LL Cool J, have been sharing social media posts with wrong information about the issue.

Crawford said putting out more detailed information may have prevented this and hopes the new initiatives help bring closure to more cases.

"Every person that is not home with their family is important," said Crawford.