Washington, D.C. – After over 500 juveniles were reported missing in D.C. since the beginning of 2017, and a letter signed by several congressional officials requested federal assistance from the Justice Department in investigating the matter, a DC police commander, when asked, “What preventative measures can young people take, specifically so they don’t become a victim of human trafficking?” responded that the best advice for young people was to — “Stay home, it’s as simple as that.
It was during an interview last Wednesday with Chanel Dickerson, the new commander of the D.C. Police Youth and Family Services Division, on the Joe Clair Morning Show, when she was asked about the reasons for the seemingly large increase in missing teens – a sentiment she pushed back against – and what families can do to mitigate the issue when she gave the controversial response.
Joe Clair: What preventative measures can young people take, specifically so they don’t become a victim of human trafficking?
Dickerson: Stay home, it’s as simple as that. If they stay home, it reduces the risk. I’m not saying that’s the fix-all but that’s where we have to start. We have to start small, this is a problem and it’ll take a community effort, but we have to start small.
"Stay home…if they stay home, it reduces the risk." D.C. Police's advice on how teens can avoid human trafficking. https://t.co/aGrAU9CbLm
— WPGC 95.5 (@WPGC) March 22, 2017
Community members and celebrities alike displayed disdain towards Dickerson’s advice to “stay home” to avoid the dangers of being a victim of human trafficking.
— Sonya Harris (@author_sonya) March 23, 2017
— Teneil (@MissTeneilD) March 23, 2017
Rapper Wale took to twitter to give the D.C. police some advice, suggesting that perhaps rather than telling people to “stay home” – they should “come up with a plan.”
Or maybe… u know come up with a plan? https://t.co/7uK6tDIWnj
— Wale (@Wale) March 22, 2017
Although DC police have claimed there was no uptick in the total of missing girls, and blamed the increased awareness of the missing teens on a broader social media campaign, community members still felt inclined to draw more attention to the issue — starting their own search committees, according to CBS report.
“We’ve just been posting them on social media more often,” said Metropolitan Police spokeswoman Rachel Reid. A quick look at the Twitter profile for the DC police department reveals it to be quite literally riddled with images of missing young black and latino girls. In spite of the officials’ concern and the posts on Twitter, police are assuring the public that there is nothing out of the ordinary.
Yet, despite DC police working to calm public uproar over the growing number of missing girls, and attesting to the seriousness of the missing youth issue, a letter obtained by the Associated Press, and signed by Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents D.C. in Congress, asked FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “devote the resources necessary to determine whether these developments are an anomaly or whether they are indicative of an underlying trend that must be addressed.”
“Ten children of color went missing in our nation’s capital in a period of two weeks and at first garnered very little media attention. That’s deeply disturbing,” Richmond’s letter said.
As the AP reports, the District of Columbia logged 501 cases of missing juveniles, many of them black or Latino, in the first three months of this year, according to the Metropolitan Police Department, the city’s police force. Twenty-two were unsolved as of March 22, police said.
Although Dickerson attempts to dispel talk of these girls being kidnapped and sold into slavery by human traffickers, notice how she denotes “in large numbers” as a qualifier, meaning she didn’t rule out the fact that there are human traffickers in the area preying on young girls.
“We have no indication to believe that young girls in the District are being preyed upon by human traffickers in large numbers,” said police commander Chanel Dickerson, leader of the Youth and Family Services division, according to NBC News 4.
“Whether these recent disappearances are an anomaly or signals of underlying trends, it is essential that the Department of Justice and the FBI use all of the tools at their disposal to help local officials investigate these events, and return these children to their parents as soon as possible,” Congressman Richmond said.
As the Free Thought Project pointed out on several occasions, some of these traffickers have already been caught in D.C. — and some of them have been cops.
Linwood Barnhill Jr., a veteran of the D.C. Police Department, was exposed by the Free Thought Project for running a child sex ring out of his house.
In 2014, in an early morning search warrant issued for his Southeast D.C. apartment found a 15-year-old girl who had previously been reported missing by her parents.
When police rescued the girl she told officers that she had met six other girls inside the Southeast D.C. apartment who told her they were also being prostituted, including with ads posted on backpage.com. Barnhill also took naked photos of the girls, purportedly for use in advertisements for sex.
Marijuana, condoms and a large mirror were also seized from the apartment; law enforcement officials say that the seized mirror had the names of other females who were being trafficked written on it.
Around that same time, another cop in the area was also exposed and arrested for trafficking teens. Lamin Manneh, 32, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to traveling across state lines and using a telephone and internet to operate a prostitution business using two teens he prostituted out over 300 times.
Some, such as former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, suggest the implications of digging into human trafficking go far deeper than a few DC cops, and will hit at the core of both the Democrats and Republican political parties.
Forewarning: this brings down Dems and Repubs! He needs to go straight all the way because this goes to the top!… https://t.co/hGjdJsujnq
— Cynthia McKinney PhD (@cynthiamckinney) February 24, 2017
After President Trump held a press conference last month, in which he detailed his plans to go after the victims of the “human trafficking epidemic,” former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney weighed in on the subject, noting that going after child predators will lead to the downfall of both Republicans and Democrats in the United States — as this problem goes all the way to the top.
Please share this story in hope that this increased public pressure will force police to reprioritize their efforts away from victimless crimes, and toward the stopping the exploitation of the most vulnerable among us.
You can listen to the full interview with Dickerson on the Joe Clair Morning Show below: