October 10, 2023
In a new initiative designed to address the distressing disparity in missing persons cases, California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed Senate Bill 673 into law, introducing the nation’s first statewide alert system designed specifically to aid in locating missing Black children and young Black women. Named the Ebony Alert, this innovative system mirrors the well-known Amber Alert, using electronic highway signs to disseminate critical information about the missing individuals. Set to take effect on January 1, the Ebony Alert represents a significant step forward in addressing the disproportionate representation of Black children and young women on the lists of missing persons.
The Ebony Alert is a direct response to a stark and troubling reality: Black children and young Black women are disproportionately represented among the missing persons in California and across the nation. State Senator Steven Bradford, the bill’s author, described this disparity as “heartbreaking and painful.” Data has consistently shown that the search and rescue efforts for missing Black individuals often lag behind those for their white counterparts.
According to the Black and Missing Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about missing persons of color throughout the United States, nearly four in 10 missing children in the country are Black. This stark statistic highlights the urgency of addressing this issue. Additionally, approximately the same percentage of sex trafficking victims are Black women, as reported by the foundation.
Much like the well-established Amber Alert system, the Ebony Alert will function as a collaborative effort between local law enforcement agencies and the California Highway Patrol. When local authorities determine it is necessary to find a missing Black youth aged 12 to 25, they can activate the alert. This action triggers the display of pertinent information on electronic highway signs and mobilizes the broader community, including the media, to assist in the search efforts.
Bill sponsor Rick L. Callender, president of the NAACP California Hawaii State Conference, praised the Ebony Alert as a significant first step in mitigating racial inequities when it comes to locating missing Black women and children. The partnership between law enforcement, the community, and the media is expected to expedite the search and recovery process, potentially saving lives in critical situations.
The introduction of the Ebony Alert could be profoundly beneficial in a city like Detroit, where communities have long grappled with the challenges of locating missing individuals, particularly Black children and young Black women. With its robust and dedicated statewide alert system, Detroit can leverage the Ebony Alert to enhance its responsiveness to such cases. The system’s ability to rapidly disseminate crucial information through electronic highway signs and engage both law enforcement and the media can significantly expedite search and rescue efforts.
In a city with a diverse population, where many families have faced the anguish of a missing loved one, the Ebony Alert promises to be a powerful tool in ensuring that every individual, regardless of their race, receives the prompt attention and resources needed when they go missing. This innovation embodies a step toward greater equity and justice in the city’s public safety efforts.
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