Human Trafficking in DC?
Nia Hampton | Monday March 27th 2017
Trafficking, illegal organ harvesting and kidnappings are all over my social media these past few weeks. And no, these aren’t spoilers about the hottest Shonda Rhimes show. These are news headlines coming straight from Washington DC. A place that once thought itself, “world police” and is now seemingly imploding on itself. Although, the actual number of teens gone missing in the DC Metro Area has gone down in recent years, the proper use of social media and PR for missing and black and latinx girls has increased. Basically, making it seem like there is a serial child kidnapper or the lucrative industry of human trafficking has found a new home in the rapidly gentrifying Chocolate City. This is a strange phenomenon in the media because we’ve done this before. It seemed like an eerie rise in the murder of young black men at the hands of police, occurring in 2015? But maybe it seemed that way because this was the first time killings of young black men by police were even recorded as such. There is exaggerated data floating around the internet adding to the hysteria but the idea that there is a rise in missing girls in D.C and that those girls are being trafficked at a large rate isn’t a conspiracy theory.
And the fact that the police officers and city officials are trying to calm the outrage down by implying that most of the cases are of runaways, as if runaways don’t make up 79% percent of all recorded humans who are trafficked in the United States is enough to make this young black woman crazy. Interim police chief Peter Newsham’s background reads like a villain from an episode of Law and Order SVU. Alcoholism, domestic violence and mishandling rape cases sprinkle his past as an officer on the force. Throw in the fact that there were two cops convicted of being linked to child prostitution rings, and we have more than enough reason to believe that this is something to be extremely alarmed about. The nonchalant way that the Police Chief tries to convince the public that girls are running away because they are having trouble at home and downplaying the fact that they are also lured away at times is scary as well. Of the two police officers who had been charged four years ago, one committed suicide days after being arrested for child pornography charges, the other officer only received 7 years of a sentence that could have gotten him 24, because the judge said he didn’t abuse his privilege as an officer because he “didn’t abuse his police power when committing the crime.” Um, excuse me? What does that even mean? I took it to mean that the laws we currently have in regards to policing and human trafficking are outdated and need to change.
Human trafficking isn’t new, it’s how many black Americans got to the American continents in the first place. It’s important that we don’t lose the concern in the midst of all the PR spins and semantic non-issues that are bound to arise as people keep searching for missing black and latinx youth, (because although there may be more girls getting boosted, male youth are trafficked as well trans and gender queer). Now that you’re thoroughly shaken to your core about yet another social crisis, what can you do? You can start by making sure your voice is heard and contacting the Mayor’s office at:
Executive Office of the Mayor
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 316
Washington, DC 20004
Call or send a letter but make sure that they know you are leaning on them to stop neglecting black and latinx youth and doing more to report children missing as well as ways to fund incentives to help and support at risk youth.
Mentor youth, runaways are easier to traffic because no one is looking for them, literally. People have decided that a runaway is a “bad kid” “looking for trouble” so whatever happens to them is their own fault. And that’s simply not true. Join a local mentor program and show a child that they don’t need to run away. Learn as much as you can about sex trafficking and child abuse and become an advocate for our vulnerable populations.
Graphic By Sophia Gach-Rasool