The District’s missing person problem gained widespread attention when a misleading Instagram post went viral, prompting a national search for D.C.’s missing girls. But, left out of that were the missing boys.
D.C. police report there are almost as many missing young men as there are missing young women. As of April 20 there have been reports of 550 missing young women and 534 missing young men this year, according to Aquita Brown, a spokesperson for the department.
Brown told the AFRO that statistics between missing young men and women are very similar, and are close to the same numbers from this time last year, “the numbers for the first quarter of 2017 are comparable to the first quarter of 2016.”
The initial reports of an increase in missing people in D.C. was inaccurate. Brown said there hasn’t been a spike in cases in the last five years. “Men aren’t really identified as being victims. That’s the perception of it,” Henderson Long, founder of Missing and Exploited East of the River Ward 7 and 8, told the AFRO April 18.
As a certified investigator of disappearing people, he said he represents all missing persons both women and men. However, society has a “soft part” for women and wants to help those who appear to be more vulnerable, Long, 48, said.
“We should be more outraged for those who are more vulnerable,” Long continued. “For most women, [if they are] dealing with a 260-pound man, physically you would think that they are at a disadvantage.”
Runaways can also be victims of sex trafficking, but officials said gender can be a barrier in identifying victims. “Trafficking victim identification is a challenge across the board; however, to the degree authorities are trained to identify human trafficking at all, far too many look primarily for female victims and often miss male victims they encounter,” according to a 2013 U.S. Department of State report on Human trafficking.
D.C. police said the majority of cases involve people who leave home voluntarily and are located within two days, and there is no indication that these missing people are involved in human trafficking.
Currently, law enforcement is working to locate Jakeem Tariq Pope, a 16-year-old boy who was last seen on April 17 in Northwest. According to police reports Pope is a repeat runaway and voluntarily left his family while at a store in the 5900 Block of Georgia Avenue, NW around 10 p.m.
Pope is a Black male, with a medium brown complexion, 5’0” in height, 90 pounds, with dark brown eyes and black hair. Police said he was last spotted wearing a blue shirt, red shorts and Nike flip flops.
Anyone with information of Pope’s whereabouts should contact police at 202-576-6768.