Advocates Say FBI Missing Children Data Misleading; Does Disservice to Black Juveniles

Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Missing White children receive far more media coverage than missing Black and Brown children.
A fact advocates often point to when explaining the disparity in attention provided to individuals of color.

But another unsettling fact has emerged with the release of the FBI’s latest statistics on missing children.

The federal agency noted about 346,000 children went missing in the United States in 2020, identifying 125,727 Black juveniles.

In addition, the agency said 197,381 White kids went missing, suggesting that missing White youth outnumber lost young Black people by more than 71,600.

But a closer look at the statistics revealed a crucial piece of information, that advocates deem misleading.

“Missing from the report is separate data for Hispanic children because the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) combined White and Hispanic children,” said Sherri Jefferson, the Executive Director of the African American Juvenile Justice Project (AAJJP).

“This is alarming, disturbing, and problematic,” Jefferson asserted.

“First, the combination of White and Hispanic children denies the Hispanic community raw data of their missing children. This process denies research and resources to fund and find their missing and exploited children or to examine causation.”

FBI officials did not return several messages seeking comment.

The NCIC data isn’t robust or reliable enough to paint a complete picture of the magnitude of the problem facing missing persons of color, said Natalie Wilson, co-founder of the Black & Missing Foundation.

“We believe the numbers are much higher based on underreporting,” Wilson stated.

She noted that the FBI classified all missing Latino individuals as White despite research revealing that 24 percent classify themselves as Afro-Latino – otherwise identifying as Black.
Further, “immigrants don’t always report their missing because of fear of deportation,” Wilson concluded.

Jefferson noted that “from ‘Westside Story’ Actress Ariana DeBose to Jennifer Lopez and Carmen Perez, the Co-founder of the Women’s March to The View’s Sunny Hostin and Ana Navarro, Hispanics are not monolithic.”

“Some identify as biracial or Black. Therefore, a separate category is critical to finding their missing children, too,” Jefferson stated.

She continued:
“More compelling is by combining White and Hispanic as one race, the figures mislead the public about the status of missing Black children who’s missing outnumber all other races.”

“The FBI 2020 data suggest that number has changed,” Jefferson said. “But has it?”

“Part of the problem in the missing, endangered, and the exploited area is the difference in collecting and delivering data.”

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which also tracks missing data, gathers data directly from law enforcement as children go missing, while FBI data is reported annually via NCIC.

“The operative words are ‘reported missing’ and ‘crime,’” Jefferson insisted.

“Most Black and Afro Latinx are underreported or not reported at all. This is because most law enforcement executes runaway warrants or deny families missing person reports.”

Jefferson concluded that more Black children are missing than White and Hispanic juveniles combined.

She said 62 percent of the 30,000 newly reported missing cases in 2020 were Black children.
“This is alarming because Blacks, or African Americans, represent about 14 percent of the U.S. population,” Jefferson noted further.

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