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Should Houston adopt California’s new ‘Ebony Alert’?

  • News
Brittany Taylor
November 2, 2023

The state of California has recently adopted the “Ebony Alert” notification system to help bring more attention to missing Black children and women, which is the first of its kind in the nation, and now, many are questioning whether Texas should adopt a similar bill.

The Ebony Alert system, similar to the Amber Alert system, will prioritize the search for missing Black children and young women, ages 12 to 25.

As a part of the alert system, Highway Patrol will activate the alert on the request from local law enforcement, NBC News reports. Electronic highway signs will be utilized as well as radio, TV, social media and other systems to help spread information about the missing person.

Why was this law needed?

The Senate Bill 673 for the Ebony Alert was signed into law on Oct. 8, by California Gov. Gavin Newsom and will go into effect on Jan. 1.

California Sen. Steven Bradford told NBC News data shows that when Black and brown people go missing, there is very little media attention, Amber Alerts and police resources used compared their white counterparts. He said it is time to dedicate something specifically to help bring young women and girls back home because they’re missed and loved just as much as their counterparts.

By the numbers:

According to the most recent data by the National Crime Information Center, around 141,000 Black children under the age of 18 went missing in 2022 and approximately 16,492 Black women over the age of 21 were accounted for in those missing persons cases.

At the end of 2022, about 30,285 Black people in the United States remained missing.

The Black and Missing Foundation shows the disparities in missing persons cases, highlighting that Black people missing persons cases remain open longer than those for white people. In 2022, about 546,568 people were reported missing and 38% were Black. Derrica Wilson, co-founder of the foundation, told CNN that a majority of the 6,000 cases of missing Black people in her database remain unsolved, NBC News reported.

Why are minority children get less attention or Amber Alerts?

Since 1996, the Amber Alert system has helped find hundreds of abducted children with the help of local police, which set the standard for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, according to its website. The Amber Alert was created in honor of the life and legacy of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was brutally murdered after being kidnapped while riding her bike in Arlington, Texas.

According to the Black and Missing Foundation, there are three reasons why there is a disparity in minority missing persons cases:

  • Runaways: A lot of minority children are initially classified as runaways, which is the result on why these cases do not receive the Amber Alert.
  • Criminals: The foundation also stated that missing minority adults are labeled as associated with criminal involvement, gangs and drugs.
  • Desensitization: It is also believed that missing minorities live in impoverished conditions and crime is a regular part of their lives.

The foundation has provided several ways on how to level the playing field: More diversity in the newsroom, balance the scales and show less of one group and more of everyone, see value in Black and brown lives and be vigilant.

Houston’s alert system in missing persons cases

In March 2000, the Texas Center for the Missing was formed after 17-year-old Gabriel Lester was reported missing from his private high school and his remains were found four months later. Gabriel’s mother, a Houston-area businesswoman help launch the organization in efforts to help families find hope, according to its website.

The Texas Center for the Missing, located in Houston, is dedicated to bringing hope and healing to the missing and their families. The nonprofit also provides multiple programs to help reduce the number of missing children, such as providing education, safety and emergency programs to the Houston-Galveston area.

The Houston Regional Amber Alert Program, administered by Texas Center for the Missing, is designed to help find missing children believed to be abducted. The program covers the Houston-Galveston 14-county region, including Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Walker, Waller, and Wharton counties.

Will Houston adopt the Ebony Alert System?

KPRC 2 has reached out to the Texas Department of Public Safety on implementing the Ebony Alert System in Texas, but has not heard back a response to the inquiry as of this writing.

In the most recent data by the Texas Center for the Missing, in 2022, 7,335 new missing child cases were filed in Harris County and 9,351 in the 14-county Houston-Galveston Region.

Photo credit: Pexels

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