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‘Ebony Alerts’ to Debut in January to Draw Attention to Missing Black Women and Children

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California is adding a new missing persons alert: the Ebony Alert for young Black people aged 12-25. (California Highway Patrol via Bay City News)

By Katy St. Clair
Bay City News

The California Highway Patrol and other agencies will soon add another tool to their belts to help locate missing people. Beginning in January, Ebony Alerts will debut to highlight missing Black children and young adults between the ages of 12 and 25.

State Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, introduced the bill and his office says the alerts are the first of their kind in the nation.

The statistics are indeed alarming. According to the Black and Missing Foundation — a nonprofit that brings awareness to missing people of color — Black people make up 14% of the U.S. population but represent 38% of the missing children in this country.

“Our Black children and young women are disproportionately represented on the lists of missing persons,” said Bradford in a statement released by his office after his bill was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this year. “This is heartbreaking and painful for so many families and a public crisis for our entire state. The Ebony Alert can change this.”

A larger percentage of missing Black children are classified as “runaways” in comparison to white children, who are classified as “missing,” according to the Black and Missing Foundation. This discrepancy affects the information being sent out in Amber Alerts, which notify the public of missing children that are seen to be at risk.

Bradford’s office also said that Black women and girls face increased risks of being trafficked, citing a report that showed that 40% of sex trafficking victims were Black women.

According to the National Crime Information Center, in 2022, 141,000 Black children went missing in the country and Black women over the age of 21 made up nearly 16,500 missing persons cases. By the end of 2022, nearly 30,000 Black people remained missing.

The bill authorizes law enforcement agencies to notify the CHP of missing Black children or young people so as to put out an Ebony Alert, similar to the Amber Alert and the Silver Alert, which is for missing older Americans.

Once activated, an Ebony Alert activates electronic highway signs and other outlets with a photo and/or description of the missing person. The CHP also uses social media to disseminate the information, enabling users to share posts and enabling media such as TV, radio and online sites to cover it.

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