The number was nothing less than a shock to the system. In text set beside a series of photographs, each one depicting a girl of color staring back at the camera, the image that went viral on social media last week claims to lay bare an appalling truth: “14 Girls Have Gone Missing in DC in the Last 24 Hours.”
Trouble is, police say the claim is not true.
On Friday, the city’s Metropolitan Police Department told NBC’s local affiliate that at no point in recent weeks have 14 girls disappeared from the city in a single day. Rather, D.C. “has logged a total of 501 cases of missing juveniles, many of them black or Latino,” NBC reports, citing law enforcement. As of March 26, police say all but 22 of those cases have been solved.
Still, though the specific claim may be spurious, it has drawn national attention to an issue that has lately spurred some very real actions in the political realm. Activists argue the inaccuracy of the post itself should not detract from the wider issues it has highlighted: the dangers confronting runaway youth, and the racial dimensions of how law enforcement treats missing kids.
First, let’s take the political implications.
The Associated Press reports Congressional Black Caucus chairman Cedric Richmond, D-La., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s nonvoting representative in Congress, sent a letter last week to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey. In the letter, they called on Sessions and Comey 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.”
The lawmakers pointed to an alarming number of their own.