“We are out there trying to bring her home,” Ms. Rues said. “We take any missing case seriously. It is more difficult when those who go missing don’t want to be found.”
Callahan Walsh, a child advocate at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said girls are often coaxed online and encouraged to leave home on their own, leaving the police to dismiss them as runaways.
Mr. Walsh said the center receives about 500 missing person calls a week. Although Black children make up 14 percent of the nation’s children, they account for 31 percent of the center’s missing children reports, he said. There may be conscious and unconscious biases among law enforcement officers in cases involving Black people that result in less attention, Mr. Walsh said.
More than 70,000 Black girls under the age of 18 were reported missing last year, according to the National Crime Information Center. Statistics involving missing Hispanic people are more difficult to obtain, because they are classified as “white” in the federal data.
“A chunk of those kids are actually found,” said Erika M. Rivers, who created the Our Black Girls missing persons website three years ago. “Even if people are found, it’s still an astronomical number.”
Overall, about 88 percent of the people of all races who were reported missing last year were later found, returned home, or the report was found to be invalid, according to the national crime center.
Ms. Rivers’s website lists the case of Melinda Felder, who vanished 15 years ago in Conway, S.C. In August 2020, Brittany Palmer, a 23-year-old with a brain injury who walked with a walker or cane, went missing in Jacksonville, Fla. Dawnita Wilkerson was last seen on June 21, 2020, getting into a silver 2004 Chevy Suburban at a motel in Evansville, Ind., according to the F.B.I.
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