UPDATE: D.C. Police said Dayanna White was located on March 23, 2017.
Social media has shined a light on the missing boys and girls who have disappeared in Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas in recent weeks.
At the beginning of March, Dayanna White never returned home from school. On March 3, her mother Dana White-Stevenson went to the police department to file a missing person report. Her daughter is still missing.
Speaking with Independent Journal Review, Dana White-Stevenson said:
“I have in my heart that God is covering my baby ... with the blood of Jesus while she is out there.”
In Dayanna's case, her mother said she ran away a year ago and after a big move, she got mixed up with the wrong crowd. This, Dayanna's mother suggested, could be the reason behind her daughter's disappearance. She said since her daughter went missing it has been hard to even breathe:
“It's like a brick wall ... it's like I'm standing in a box with no way out and no air.”
A series of tweets complaining that the media was not given much attention to black and Hispanic teens who went missing sparked a series of stories around the issue. However, in response to the uproar, Mayor Muriel Bowser said there is not an increase missing persons in D.C. during a March 16 press conference:
“The number of missing persons reports has remained constant since 2014. What has changed is our way of getting that information out quickly and the tools that we are using to get that out."
Co-Founder and president of the Black and Missing Foundation, Derrica Wilson, told FOX 5 DC:
“So to say that is not an uptick in the number of kids that are going missing — to see that 10 children go missing within two weeks — that right there is alarming in itself.”
White-Stevenson said support from the police department has been lacking. She said one officer checks in from time to time but for her, “it's just me and my husband doing the footwork.” She said she received a tip from someone that said they saw Dayanna hop in an Uber in front of a high-rise building in southwest Washington, across the street from where 1st District Police Department is located, adding: “she right there underneath y'all noises.”
White-Stevenson also got another tip from a person who called the missing persons hotline. She said she has relayed leads on her missing daughter to police but said she is unsure if they have pursued them or not, adding:
“Why do our black kids not have Amber Alerts? Because they're black and live in Washington D.C?”
No Amber Alerts have been issued for the missing boys and girls in D.C so far. The national standard for issuing an Amber Alert requires that:
- There is a reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
- The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
- The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
- The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.
Since no Amber Alert was issued, it suggests that D.C. police do not believe these teenagers are not in immediate danger.
A report by the Journalism Center On Children and Family coined the term “Missing White Girl Syndrome” to discuss media bias against missing children. Dorothy Roberts, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School who studies gender and race said:
“Missing White Girl Syndrome is just another way that white children are considered more precious by the dominant U.S. culture ... It reinforces an unequal valuation of children, causing less attention to paid to black children who are missing and less pressure on police and prosecutors to investigate. It creates the impression that that's just the way it is for black kids — they get abducted or killed. So people get to be apathetic about the unconscious inequities in our country."
There was also speculation about whether or not the missing girls' cases were connected to human trafficking. Commander of D.C. Police Youth and Family Services Division Chanel Dickerson, told reporters that there is no evidence that the missing girls' cases are connected to human trafficking.
White-Stevenson said she is not losing hope that her daughter will be brought home safely: “Dayanna we are looking for you and are not going to stop until we find you, we love you.”
Sharing photos and information on social media has resulted in some girls being found. One missing girl was found by an Uber driver who recognized her picture.
According to Mayor Bowser, since January 2017, 708 missing person reports have filed at Metropolitan Police Department, 674 have been closed, and 34 remain open.
Editor's Note: This story was updated after publication.