The increased media coverage of the black and latinx girls missing in DC has started a national discussion on whether the cause is human trafficking. Black lawmakers are now calling for the FBI to investigate. In part, social media has been vital in exposing the cases of many of these missing girls. Although many assume these missing cases have been attributed to human trafficking, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Acting Chief of Police Newsham have stated that there’s no connection between the cases and human trafficking. There are a total of 38 missing persons cases open in D.C. right now.
Is human trafficking a far fetched notion to rationalize the disappearance? It isn’t, and shouldn’t be ruled out in this situation. Many people are wondering how these young girls are being so easily lured. Traffickers sometimes call themselves ‘pimps’, and they’re very good at what they do. Most commonly they prey on runways, girls with low self esteem or with problems at home. Mainly, runways and young people are the ones who are commonly trafficked. Is human trafficking new to D.C.? Not at all, in 2015 the D.C. City council enacted a law that requires “training on human trafficking to new law enforcement officers, social workers, and case workers” . This came after a D.C. police officer was sentenced to 7 years for pimping teen girls.
In 2014, Linwood Barnhill Jr, resigned from the Metropolitian Police Department in D.C. and plead guilty to two counts of pandering a minor and one count of possession of child pornogrpahy. He was arrested after a 16 year-old missing girl was found in his apartment. Court documents said that in a two week span, he prepared her for sex with a man, that included taking nude photos of her. The policeman met the young girl at a mall and asked her if would she be interested in modeling. In 2013, the same officer set up a sexual encounter for a 15 year-old girl after seeing her at a bus stop and asking her if she would be interested in modeling. The officer took nude photos of her as well as clothed. He set up a sexual encounter for her in his home, then the young girl engaged in sexual acts with a man in his 40’s or 50’s in the officer’s bedroom. After the officer collected money from the man and gave the girl a portion. There was a third 17 year-old-victim to whom Barnhill did the same. The officer received a light sentence because the judge felt he didn’t abuse his power as police while committing the crimes.
An attorney for one of the teens disagreed, stating that his client [the teen] was afraid to testify because more officers could be involved.
That same year, D.C. police officer Marc Washington was arrested after allegedly going to the home of a 15-year-old who had been previously missing, ordered her to remove her clothing and took nude photos of her – all while he was on duty. He told the girl that taking nude photos of her was a part of the procedure for cases like hers. He committed suicide soon after being charged with making child pornography. Hundreds of photographs were found in his camera dating back to 2011.
In 2013, A Baltimore City police officer was arrested on criminal charges that included prostitution and human trafficking.
In April 2016, A police officer employed by the Los Angeles Unified School District was charged with the attempted sex trafficking of a child and use of the Internet to induce a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity.
You can’t attribute cops to every missing girl’s case in DC, but it begs the question, are some of them a part of the missing cases. Are some of them actually trafficking these young missing girls? The biggest question many people wonder is how are these girls being so easily lured? Is it by someone they trust?
Sadly, human trafficking is a lucrative business. It is a $32 billion dollar business, in fact a pimp can earn as much as $150,000 to $200,000 each year just from one girl.
It’s important that we continue to raise awareness about missing people who are black and latinx since there’s a big disparity in the media on how much they are reported.