Search underway for missing teen girls in Washington, DC

Washington, D.C., police officials sent a series of tweets asking for the public's help to find eight black teenage girls who are among 38 people listed as missing on the police department's website.
5:58 | 03/24/17

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Transcript for Search underway for missing teen girls in Washington, DC
Now to that desperate search for missing teens in Washington, D.C. Nearly a dozen black and Latina girls reported missing in recent days and authorities are now trying to raise awareness. ABC's linsey Davis is in Washington with the very latest on this story. Good morning, linsey. Reporter: Good morning, Amy. This is a story line that primarily gained traction online and there are those in social media who say that Tom Brady's missing Jersey got more coverage than these missing girls but D.C. Police say it's not a matter more girls are missing but simply doing a better job of getting the word out when people do go missing. These are the alarming posts catching the attention of social media users. A series of tweets by Washington, D.C. Police asking to help find nearly a dozen black teenage girls reported missing over the course of just three days. All of a sudden we have a lot of young females missing. Reporter: They are among 38 people in total listed as missing. Some of them described as citically missing on d.c.'s metropolitan police site. Many of them young blacks or Latino teenage girls. If we have a child missing it should be known there is a possibility that -- Reporter: Hundreds of concerned citizens packed an emotional town hall meeting Wednesday night worried all these vanished teens represent a disturbing spike in crime and questioning if plaque and Latino girls are being targeted. We can't go nowhere by ourselves. We can't do nothing because we have to worry about somebody trying to take us. Reporter: But city officials explain there aren't more missing teen, there's just more awareness. Part of a new effort by a police department often accused of overlooking cases of missing people of color. I just implemented a process to ensure that all critical missing persons receive the same level of police service and media attention. Reporter: According to D.C. Police, all 38 people currently missing walked away voluntarily. And four of the eight in the initial tweet that garnered so much attention have since been located but the concern is that those are still missing may now be in real danger. When they go missing, guess what, you have a child out there and there are people in our community that will prey on those children. Reporter: The concern is if authorities don't publicize their cases, they could end up like 8-year-old relisha rudd. Until a few weeks ago she was the only missing person on the site after she vanished three years ago this month. Her mother spoke to a local station at the time. Come back home to your mother safely in her home and I love you. Reporter: Seen here just days before her disappearance, many felt her case didn't get enough coverage. She has never been found. That community had no idea that this was an issue that was going on in their own backyard and by the police being transparent and putting out all missing person cases, it brings about awareness. Many of these cases don't end up rising to the level of an amber alert and that's something that some in the black community point to as a sign that when black children go missing they don't get the same attention and coverage as when white children go missing but the police chief here points out that under the current guidelines an amber alert can only be issued if it's believed that the child has been abducted or that they are in imminent danger of injury or death. Amy. All right, linsey, thank you. Joining us now is ABC consultant Brad Garrett and sunny Hostin. Thank you both for being with us. Brad, residents in D.C. Understandably alarmed at this news. What stands out to you about this particular case or these cases? Well, one of the keys, Amy, is actually figuring out and the police chief alluded to it as to who is actually in deep trouble while they're missing. 2,000 kids go missing today. 800,000 a year, the vast majority within hours or days are found. So you've got to sort out where can these kids potentially be. And are they in harm's way. And that's going to be the real key and does take a lot of energy to get to that end point. We mentioned residents are alarmed but they're also understandably outraged at the lack of attention this story, these stories often get. Why the discrepancy? Well, there certainly is a disparity between when you have a missing person of color and a missing white person. Missing white woman's syndrome, the term was coined when there is a missing person of color but I think it starts in the way that they are classified. If someone is classified as a runaway they certainly don't get media attention. They do not get police attention. They need to be classified very, very quickly as either missing or kidnapped and then you will get the media attention that is needed. So it starts with law enforcement. I do believe that it starts with law enforcement and this mislabeling between runaway and missing makes them more susceptible to human sex trafficking. 40% of people that are missing are in this human sex trade but because they aren't covered, these cases aren't covered it makes them more susceptible to being taken. So disturbing, Brad, given what sunny said what can investigators do to find them given the amount of time that's transpired? The key with kids this age are social media and phones. That's how they communicate. I'm going to guess if they still have access to either one of those, they're going to communicate with people that are in their circle. The real key is going to be for the police to have a network amongst social media, amongst their relatives and every commonplace this child has a history, because let's face it a 13-year-old or 14-year-old doesn't have a ways and means of protecting themselves or funding anything and so they're going to be connected to someone. All right. We certainly hope these families get their answer, Brad Garrett, sunny Hostin, thank you both for

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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