WASHINGTON — It’s gotten national attention lately, but D.C. leaders say there is not an increase in the number of missing children around the city. What has increased is the amount of online attention given to finding these kids.
“We made the decision to notify the public in every critically missing child case,” which D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser explained is any child under the age of 15, “with the hopes that we will quickly reunite that child with his or her family.”
“We certainly don’t want people to think that children are being kidnapped or abducted,” said Bowser. “In every case this year, for example, a child separated from home, left home on his or her own terms, voluntarily.”
In an online statement, the city said the increased use of social media by police “has been able to generate significant public attention around the cases — often a key contributor to finding missing persons.”
“That’s how they communicate more probably than we even know, and they are calling friends and calling family and letting people know they’re all right,” Bowser said.
“We still want those kids not just to call, but to come home or to contact the police department so we know they’re in the care of a caring adult.”
The mayor announced Friday that the city would be putting more resources into finding these kids. Among steps being taken are an increase in the number of D.C. Police officers assigned to the Children and Family Services Division. Police will also be expanding its missing persons webpage by providing more information about each individual case still open.
Bowser said the effort would go beyond the scope of D.C. police.
“I’m actually going to put additional resources in the form of grants to nonprofits who work with young people who are in vulnerable homes,” Bowser said.
“A lot of times we find that a child will separate from home on multiple occasions, and we especially want to connect that child and that family to the right resources. ”
Sometimes, the mayor said, the child may be trying to find a better situation than the one they’re in at home right now. She was speaking anecdotally about a case involving a foster child.
“We want them to reach out for resources before they’re thinking about leaving home,” said Bowser. “We want them to know that there’s help.”
In addition to the grant money that will flow to nonprofits in the city, a PSA is being created that will help spread the word about what resources are available.