October 11, 2023
California’s recently enacted “Ebony Alert” legislation is groundbreaking, as it is the nation’s first law to prioritize the search for missing Black youth. On Sunday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 673 into law, establishing California as the pioneer state in implementing an alert system similar to the Amber Alert, to address the issue of missing Black children and young women.
Use of the Ebony Alert
The law, set to take effect on January 1, grants the California Highway Patrol the authority to activate the alert upon request from local law enforcement whenever a Black youth goes missing in the area. The Ebony Alert will use electronic highway signs and promote information through radio, TV, social media, and other communication channels to raise awareness about missing persons. The Ebony Alert will specifically apply to missing Black individuals between 12 and 25.
Missing Persons Data
In 2022, the most recent data from the National Crime Information Center revealed that approximately 141,000 Black children under 18 were reported missing, and nearly 16,500 cases involved missing Black women over 21. The center also reported that over 30,000 Black individuals in the United States remained missing by the end of 2022. Although about 38% of missing persons in 2022 were Black, according to the Black and Missing Foundation, cases involving missing Black individuals receive less media attention than those of white individuals.
Additionally, missing persons cases involving Black individuals remain unresolved for longer than those involving white individuals. Derrica Wilson, co-founder of the foundation, informed CNN that most of the 6,000 cases of missing Black individuals in her database remain unsolved.
“Data shows that Black and brown, our indigenous brothers and sisters, when they go missing, there’s very rarely the type of media attention, let alone AMBER alerts and police resources that we see with our white counterparts,” state Sen. Steven Bradford told NBC News.
Amber Alerts appear to be noticeably less effective regarding missing Black children.
To issue an Amber Alert in California, specific criteria must be met. The victim must be either under 17 years old or have a documented disability; there should be credible evidence of their immediate danger, and these alerts cannot be utilized for situations related to custody disputes or cases involving runaways.
A significant issue arises because missing Black children are frequently categorized as runaways, resulting in their exclusion from Amber Alerts, as highlighted by the foundation. Since its establishment in 1996, the Amber Alert system has successfully aided in the recovery of 1,127 children, as reported by the U.S. Department of Justice. Furthermore, the Black and Missing Foundation has uncovered that Amber Alerts appear to be noticeably less effective when it comes to missing Black children than their white counterparts.
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