UPDATE: Multiple teens reported missing in Washington D.C.

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Over a dozen teenagers from the Washington D.C. area, ranging in ages from 14 to 18, have been reported missing as of March 23, according to NBC Washington.

The news media outlet Heavy reports that a string of missing person reports have been filed in the nation’s capital, many whom are African-American and Latina teens. It has also been reported that at least 10 African-American girls went missing within one week, says WPGC.

Some community members have accused the media and the police of downplaying the story, though Police Chief Peter Newsham asserted they are taking the issue very seriously. He argued that most missing teens end up coming home, having been runaways or voluntarily left home due to domestic issues. Newsham also noted the number of missing person cases have not increased in recent years.

Acting Police Chief Peter Newsham told the television station that “the year-over-year number of missing persons, including juveniles, has held steady, and that there is no known link in D.C. now between missing people and human trafficking.”

One D.C. teenager who was once classified as “missing” told reporters she actually was never missing. The girl told WUSA9, “I left because I felt like my foster mother was mistreating me.” She later turned herself into police. She recalled, “My friend texted me and said I was on TV and she sent me a screenshot of the missing person flyer, and then people were texting me videos of them crying.”

During a press conference on Mar. 16, Mayor Muriel Bowser backed the police chief’s remarks saying, “The number of missing person reports has remained constant…what has changed is getting that information out quickly. There is no evidence to suggest there has been an increase in missing persons.”

Heavy also reports that the commander of the division in charge of investigating the missing teens, Chanel Dickerson, gave this reassuring statement to a packed audience: “Let me first reassure you. We have no indication to believe that young girls in the district are being preyed upon by human traffickers in large numbers.”

Dickerson also told concerned attendees that only 34 missing person cases remain open out of the 708 cases reported in 2017. “We have no reason to believe the 34 missing cases are related,” she said, and not all cases involved adolescents.

The D.C. Police Department is leveraging the power of social media to raise awareness about this issue after a flurry of online posts showing the missing teens gained national attention. Police did not previously publicize each missing person case as they have been in recent weeks.

Regarding the measures taken to increase exposure to the cases, the Washington D.C. mayor said, “We are here to send a clear message that we will continue to use every resource available to us to protect our city’s most vulnerable residents.”

With the missing teens gaining traction online, there was a recent Instagram post that reportedly went viral and circulated misinformation about the number of outstanding missing cases while other media outlets reported some of the teens still missing after they had been located. Some of the inaccurate posts were even shared on social media by high-profile celebrities.

For the most accurate and up-to-date information about the status of missing D.C. teens, visit the D.C. Police Department’s Twitter page.

H/T: Heavy, NBC Washington

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