Two Black girls have been found after the Milwaukee Police Department refused to issue a missing persons report despite sex trafficking suspicions and outcries from the community.
Officers in Milwaukee refused to issue an Amber Alert for two missing Black girls, who have now been found after residents came together in a search party. Relatives of the girls believed the girls could have been taken and forced into a child sex trafficking ring. The pair of girls, 13 and 15, went missing on Sunday, and according to a police spokesperson, their disappearance “had not been considered critical missing and did not meet the criteria for an Amber Alert.”
Instead of covering the negligence of the officers, outlets like Fox 6 decided to report on seven officers and one firefighter getting hurt, as well as three people being shot, which was the result of civil unrest that led to a house being set on fire. In the midst of all this, neighborhood residents and local activists began documenting the events via live-stream and on Facebook. A photographer ended up reporting the recovery of the children, which happened Tuesday night, according to Newsone.
One of the girls’ mothers tracked her daughter’s phone and then told police where her location was, but police never responded. At that point, the neighborhood felt it was time to take the matter into their own hands. “A group of neighbors showed up at the house to knock on the door and look for the girls, and when they did, shots were fired at them from inside,” the photojournalist, Amanda Schlicher Press wrote. “THEN the police showed up, arrested the people who were shooting from within the house, but claimed to not see any evidence of the girls there, and left the scene.” She added that the “House is connected with a known sex predator, and it was suspected that the girls had been lured or grabbed for sex trafficking.”
Officers have neglected the communities of color’s needs and safety for so long that the neighborhood created its own missing persons account, Missing Person MKE. The account was created on social media back in February “because there is a clear bias and selective culture/practice when it comes to issuing timely amber alerts and missing person reports in Milwaukee for POC.” Newsone reports that after the house was set on fire, “A search party of neighbors, NOT the police, found the two missing girls, and two other missing children, around 4:00pm. They were following neighbors’ tips from house to house that appear to be a straight up sex trafficking ring. They were doing this while dozens of police officers were ON SCENE doing nothing but harassing and intimidating residents. Police on the scene started using tear gas and rubber bullets on angry neighbors who were doing their jobs for them,” Press wrote.
Police only announced that one of the girls was found and said it “cannot confirm” any allegations of sex trafficking ring and that the department claims to have launched an investigation. Despite the residents doing the job of officers, the police chief condemned the search party. Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales called it “vigilantism” and “an unruly crowd.” “What you had today is vigilantism. You had people take the law into their own hands and run off of information that has not been proven. We need to investigate that. That’s what the police is here for,” said Morales. According to CNN, “data shows that missing white children receive far more media coverage than missing black and brown children, despite higher rates of missing children among communities of color.”