*African American members of Congress are calling for the Justice Department to help police investigate a large number of missing children in Washington, D.C., the majority of them black or Latino, reports the Associated Press.
The Metropolitan Police Department logged 501 cases of missing black and brown juveniles in the first three months of this year. Twenty-two were unsolved as of March 22, police said.
The letter, dated Tuesday and obtained Thursday by The AP, was sent by Congressional Black Caucus chairman Cedric Richmond, D-La., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents DC in Congress. They called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James 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.”
Richmond said he hopes to meet with Sessions and bring up the issue. No meeting is currently scheduled. But President Donald Trump assured caucus members on Wednesday that he would make his Cabinet secretaries available to them.
D.C. police officials claim there has been no increase in the numbers of missing persons in their jurisdiction. “We’ve just been posting them on social media more often,” said Metropolitan Police spokeswoman Rachel Reid.
An inaccurate Instagram post claiming 14 girls had disappeared in D.C. over a 24-hour period went viral across social media Thursday. DC-born actress Taraji P. Henson, rapper LL Cool J and rap mogul Russell Simmons were among the celebrities who shared the post. But that post was not true.
While the disappearance of any child is reason for concern, at no point in recent weeks have 14 girls disappeared from D.C. in a single day, police said Friday. Since March 19, D.C. police have shared 20 missing person fliers on Twitter; 10 of these people were juveniles. As of Friday, six of these juveniles had been found; four still were missing.
Some people deleted their posts once they were made aware of the inaccuracies. Nevertheless, the increased social media attention has caused concern in the DMV.
Hundreds of people packed a town-hall style meeting at a neighborhood school on Wednesday to voice concern.
“Ten children of color went missing in our nation’s capital in a period of two weeks and at first garnered very little media attention. That’s deeply disturbing,” Richmond’s letter said.
Derrica Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, said that despite the assurances from police, it was alarming for so many children to go missing around the same time. On Tuesday night, she noted, her group had four reports of missing children and only one had been found.