Black and Missing Foundation co-founders Natalie and Derrica Wilson said on "The View" Thursday that they've seen a concerning uptick in missing person cases since the start of the pandemic that could be connected to child sex trafficking.
According to 2020 NCIC Missing Person and Unidentified Person Statistics, 543,018 people were reported missing last year and nearly 40% were persons of color.
Often, those cases do not receive the same attention by law enforcement and media compared to when the missing are white, Natalie and Derrica say.
"When persons of color are reported missing their cases are simply not taken seriously," Derrica said.
The sisters started the foundation in 2008 to help the thousands of families that need help finding their sons or daughters. Since then, they said they've helped reunite over 300 families, including then-16-year-old Mishell-Nicole DiAmonde Green who was missing for six months in 2012. Natalie and Derrica said they received an anonymous tip 14 minutes after sharing their story on "The View" on Feb. 24, 2012.
While the sister duo continues to help get Black and missing person cases media and police attention, they shared some tips on how parents can help protect their children from falling victim to child sex trafficking.
"Sex trafficking is a multibillion-dollar industry," Natalie said. "Since the pandemic, our caseload has increased because children are being sold into sex trafficking."
She went on to say that many of these children are unknowingly meeting predators online, so parents need to be "vigilant" about observing their child's online activity.
"We need you to monitor what your children are viewing online, what images they're sharing, who they're talking to," Natalie said. "We spend most of our time online. So guess what? Our children are spending time online as well."
In a recent case of a young missing girl brought to Derrica and Natalie's attention, an avid gamer had been groomed for two years online unbeknownst to her parents.
"It's not just instant, it's not a day or two days. They're grooming them and making these children comfortable," Natalie said.
Derrica and Natalie suggested parents "create a fictitious account" in an effort to "try to befriend your children and see what sensitive information they'll share with you." Once that happens, Natalie advised having a conversation with your child.
"We have to stick to the basics," Derrica added. "We have to be that nosey parent. We have to stop being our children's friend and be the parent, because it's lifesaving."
The sisters started the Black and Missing Foundation a few years after 24-year-old Tamika Huston went missing from her hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina, where Derrica also lived. Huston's body was found a year after her disappearance and her boyfriend was later convicted of murder.
"We read how her family really struggled to get any media coverage, particularly national media coverage," Natalie told "The View."
One year later, the disappearance of Natalee Holloway during a high school trip to Aruba received international media attention.
"We weren't sure if this was an issue affecting our communities, and we decided to do something about it," Natalie said, adding that her background in public relations and Derrica's background in law enforcement made them a perfect pair to help bring awareness to and find missing persons.
"We keep going because of the thousands of families that need our help," Natalie said.
Derrica told the co-hosts that the Black and Missing Foundation "is bigger than Natalie and I."
"We're two women, we're wives, we're mothers, we are full-time employees, but these families need us and we hope that other viewers out there can see they can make a difference," she continued. "It doesn't require a whole army. We're two women that's trying to make an imprint on this world."
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