A Northeast Washington D.C. resident launched a project more than three years ago to help the community locate missing people. Now, the organization uses social media pages to alert the public about missing persons within the District’s eight wards.
Henderson Long started an organization that uses Facebook to post the photos and information of missing Black children from Wards 7 and 8.
Henderson Long, 48, is the founder of Missing and Exploited East of the River Ward 7 and 8, a Facebook page with more than 12,000 followers that allows residents to post photos and information of missing loved ones.
“I have a passion for finding and locating kids and getting them back to their families,” Long told the AFRO on Apr. 18.
Long was drawn to the issue of disappearing people when one of his family members went missing a few years ago. He said he realized how difficult it is to locate a missing person, especially a child. “I know the feeling so I try to get out there on the ground to help other families,” Long said.
“It requires a lot of resources,” Long continued. He said he became a certified investigator and began assisting law enforcement and neighbors with solving missing person cases when he noticed that police were understaffed.
There are currently 1,067 reported missing persons in D.C., according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
Last year, 90 percent of the cases that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children helped law enforcement solve involved endangered runaways.
“Runaways are no different than a person who may have been abducted when you look at what they can get involved in,” Long said. He said runaways can be victims of sex trafficking, crime and abuse.
Long said he would prefer for celebrities to promote the cases of girls who are actually missing in D.C. like Unique Harris, who was last seen in 2010, and not comment on misinformation like the tweet that erroneously reported that 14 Black girls went missing in a period of 24 hours. The false post did however push Mayor Muriel Bowser to create a task force for missing people in D.C. on Mar. 24.
Long said he is working with the Mayor’s office on her new initiatives to increase officer staffing and publicizing missing people, as well as assessing the root causes of children running away from home.
He said he wants to “close the revolving door” on repeat runaways. “If you send them right back to the same environment they are going to run away again,” Long said.
Long’s family member has runaway from home more than once and he fears for her life, “It’s heartbreaking,” he said. She is almost 18-years-old and Long said she has experienced physical abuse while being away from home.
He advises parents to take precautions when it comes to protecting children. Long said parents should keep fingerprints, photographs, dental and medical records of children just in case a child is lost. These items can be helpful in locating and identifying youth.
He added that parents should educate their children on their surroundings and make sure they have a good sense of direction, and memorize their home address. “More kids get lost than abducted,” Long said.