Congresswomen meet to discuss missing women of color

PHOTO: Exterior view of the U.S. Capitol building, in Washington, Jan. 18, 2017. Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images
Exterior view of the U.S. Capitol building, in Washington, Jan. 18, 2017.

Following last month's spike in social media awareness around potential missing teens in the nation's capital, Congresswomen and law enforcement representatives are convening on Capitol Hill today to discuss better ways to help the thousands of missing children and women of color across the nation.

While D.C. Police Youth and Family Services Commander Chanel Dickerson clarified that the social media rumors of an increase in missing D.C. teens are untrue, she made it clear that even one missing teen is too much.

"Actually it's a decrease. But when we talk about numbers, I'm not trying to minimize when I say there's not an up-tick or there's been a decrease," ABC News affiliate WJLA reported Dickerson saying. "It's just that we wanted to be transparent and input it out so everyone can see."

According to local police data, the number of missing child cases in D.C. dropped from 2,433 in 2015 to 2,242 in 2016. However, last month's increased social media attention around the issue drew eyes to the nation's capital, which is currently about 50 percent black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

During a press conference, Dickerson said that, although D.C. has investigated more than 19,000 missing person cases in the last five years, only 16 of those cases remain open.

"But one person missing in the District of Columbia is one person too many," she said, according to WJLA.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., and Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., plan to continue the "one person too many" conversation with a panel that will bring together members of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls, law enforcement representatives, educators, representatives from historically black colleges and other community leaders.

During the event, leaders plan to discuss some of the elements that may contribute to this issue, including economic disadvantages, the disparate treatment of missing black women and girls by police and the lack of public awareness around the missing individuals.

According to the Black and Missing Foundation, an organization that raises awareness about missing black people nationwide, 37 percent of missing people in the United States are minorities.

Derrica Wilson, CEO and co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, told ABC News, "We all know that Black and Latinos, or any person of color, who go missing oftentimes do not receive the much needed media coverage, which could drastically increase the odds of their safe recovery."

The convening this afternoon will include two panels focused on fact-finding and best practices to advise lawmakers on proposals designed to help reconcile the disparity of attention.

The conversation will be held at the Library of Congress, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. EST, and will be live streamed on the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls' Facebook page.