An image circulating online focused attention on missing black and Latina teens in Washington D.C. area. The image, created by Entertainment for Breakfast, was accompanied by the headline, “14 Girls Have Gone Missing in DC in the Last 24 Hours”:
However, the site also added this comment alongside the image:
Note: 2 of the girls on the cover have been missing before this year, but are being used to discuss a long term issue in [Washington] D.C.
We contacted Entertainment for Breakfast regarding both the image and the claim made in the headline. We also contacted Washington, D.C., police seeking comment on the image. Neither has responded to us, but local police have said that they do not have any record of 14 girls going missing within a 24-hour period in the Washington area.
According to D.C. Metropolitan Police statistics, there were 13 open cases involving missing youths as of 27 March 2017.
Authorities have also stated that the number of cases of missing teens in the area has not notably increased recently. There were 2,242 reports of missing teens in 2016, compared to 2,433 in 2015. However, Chanel Dickerson, who heads the department’s Youth and Family Services division, said that she is posting more reports of missing teens of color online in order to draw attention to their cases:
I’m not trying to minimize that other people are missing. But they look like me. I just want to make sure that every investigation [is] focused on every child the same way, [that] we give the same exposure to everyone, regardless of your race or where you live.
The story promoted by the image included another claim:
It’s been about a week since Twitter user @BlackMarvelGirl set the internet on fire, garnering 35,000 retweets in less than 12 hours about 8 teenage girls who went missing in the Washington D.C. area.
Several media outlets, including Essence and TeenVogue, began to write about the topic, discovering that in January, there were as many as 15 open cases of missing black and latinx girls in DC, getting little more than local media coverage and some tweets from the police department. Although this number is alarming, it speaks to a much larger issue going on in our country that is failing to make top stories on evening news programs.
The tweet cited in the story, posted on 12 March 2017, claimed that eight teen girls were reported missing within the previous 72 hours. Of the eight people highlighted in the tweet, only one, 15-year-old Dashann Wallace, is still listed by police as missing as of this writing.
On 21 March 2017, Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Washington D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey urging them to “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.”
Ashley. “Black Women and Girls are Missing, and No One Seems to Care.” Entertainment For Breakfast. 23 March 2017.
DeMarco, Lauren. “Town hall meeting held to discuss missing children in DC.” Fox5dc.com. 22 March 2017.
WTTG-TV. “Large percentage of missing teens voluntarily leave home and are located soon after, DC Police say.” Fox5dc.com. 23 March 2017.
Metropolitan Police Department. “Current Missing Person Cases.” mpdc.dc.gov.
Holland, Jesse J. “Black Lawmakers Call on FBI to Help on Missing Black Girls.” Associated Press. Accessed via U.S. News & World Report. 23 March 2017.