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D.C. officials: 'The number of reported missing persons is not going up'

Mayor Bowser addresses concerns about missing teens during a news conference in Washington, D.C., Thursday, March 16, 2017 (Sam Ford/ABC7)

In recent months, there's been growing alarm that more children and teens in the District have gone missing at a much higher rate, particularly black and Latina girls, but on Thursday, city officials called a news conference to say missing reports have not been on the rise.

"The number of reported missing persons is not going up," Commander Chanel Dickerson, the leader of the Youth and Family Services Division at the Metropolitan Police Department, said.

Dickerson, along with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Peter Newsham emphasized that there has been no increase in numbers of missing youth nor sex trafficking.

"In 2016, we had almost 1,000 fewer reports of missing persons than we had in 2012," Newsham said.

Officials said of those reported missing so far in 2017, 95 percent have been located.

Dickerson told ABC7 News in February that she sends out news releases to the media of all critically missing persons, defined as 15 years of age or younger, or 65 years of age and older, as well as others who meet certain criteria. Previously, detectives individually dictated when missing persons reports would be released to the media.

"Since I came over in December, that discretion is no longer there. It's every case to insure that every case receives the same level of attention," Dickerson said.

The commander also releases the information on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

"I think this awareness that the commander has raised in our community about the number of kids who do go missing, it's very important to get that information out," Newsham said.

Helen Taylor, a local activist on missing and exploited children's issues was happy to hear that city officials are raising awareness, however she does have some concerns for the missing.

"If people are running away from home, especially kids, what are they running away from and what are they running to?" Taylor asked.

The Root and Teen Vogue recently published articles asking if "anyone cares about D.C.'s missing black and Latinx teens?" in relation to larger media organizations and their lack of coverage of missing teens in the D.C. area.

ABC7 News works diligently to report and share missing persons cases in the D.C. area daily.

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