An Instagram post claiming 14 black and Latino girls went missing within 24 hours in Washington, D.C. spread like wildfire on social media, prompting a huge outcry.
The hashtag #missingdcgirls soon began trending on Twitter, with concerned citizens demanding the police department give due attention to the case and condemning the mainstream media for not shedding much light on the topic because the victims belonged to minority communities.
14 black girls go missing in 24 hrs & I have to rely on Black Twitter to get info cuz mainstream media's too busy to care. #missingdcgirls— Shalisa Hayes (@ShalisaHayes) March 24, 2017
14 black girls have gone missing in 24 hours. Multiple black and latinx kids are missing daily. Why aren't the police/govt. doing anything— baby (@wavyvinyl) March 24, 2017
Washington DC got some explaining to do on why 14 black girls are missing within 24 HRS. Our sistas don't deserve this!— Neechi Sosa???? (@BigNeechi) March 25, 2017
I live in southeast D.C. and I've heard nothing about these 14 missing black girls. If they were white, it'd be on CNN.#missingdcgirls— Charles Clymer (@cmclymer) March 24, 2017
However, the stats circulating the internet were incorrect and the post has now been removed.
As it turns out, the D.C. Metropolitan Police recently began tweeting out images of missing people in an attempt to locate them faster.
The department publicized 20 missing people via Twitter since March 19, 10 of whom were minors. So far, police have located six of them while four are still missing.
The new social media practice led people to believe the number of missing people had increased severely, which is not true, as confirmed by the police.
"We've just been posting them on social media more often," said Rachel Reid, a spokesperson for the D.C. Metro Police Department.
New York Daily News writer Shaun King soon figured out that many of the images were taken from his story – and he wanted people to stop spreading rumors.
Some of the girls whose photos were widely circulated online were missing since years and some were not even from D.C.
Dear People Advocating for Missing Black Girls,— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) March 24, 2017
Please be sure you are spreading the truth and actual facts. It matters. It really matters
The authorities insist the law enforcement agencies are actually publicizing the cases in an attempt to locate the missing people but there has been no such increase in the numbers.
In fact, the numbers have gone down. According to the USA Today, for the past five years, the average number of missing people reports had been an average of 200 per month in the D.C. area alone. This year, the number dropped to 190.
So far in 2017, 501 children have gone missing. As the NBC Washington reported, the police have located all but 22 of them.
While the viral post that drew attention to this issue may have been misleading, the problem of black people missing across the country is real and very little is being done about it.
Nearly 36.7 percent of missing people under 17 are black, according to the Black And Missing Foundation.
Sadly, very few such cases draw national attention.
“We can't focus on the numbers. If we have one missing child, that's one too many," explained Derrica Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation. “They prey on the homeless, they prey on low income children, they prey on the runaways, they prey online.”
The members of Congressional Black Caucus recently penned a letter asking the FBI to assist D.C. police in their investigation of the missing minors.
Moreover, in the wake of public outcry, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced more resources will be invested to find the missing city children.
The city also decided to allocate more money to nonprofit organizations that work with vulnerable teenagers.