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California creates race-based missing persons alert system: ‘Ebony alert’

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Washington Examiner
Breccan F. Thies
October 10, 2023

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) signed legislation making California the first state in the country to create a separate alert system for missing women and children based on race.

Like an Amber Alert, the Golden State’s new “Ebony Alert” is designed to notify the public when black children and young black women and girls between the ages of 12 and 25 go missing.

The age range is an expansion from a previous law that limited alerts to 17 years old or younger.

The law, set to go into effect on Jan. 1, was passed unanimously by both chambers of California’s legislature.

“California is taking bold and needed action to locate missing black children and black women in California,” Democratic state Sen. Steven Bradford, who led the legislation, said in a press release. “Our black children and young women are disproportionately represented on the lists of missing persons. This is heartbreaking and painful for so many families and a public crisis for our entire state.”

According to the Black and Missing Foundation, cited by Bradford, 38% of missing children reported in the United States are black, and a recent human trafficking report found 40% of sex trafficking victims were black women.

Bradford said that black children are often classified as “runaways” as opposed to “missing” and do not receive an Amber Alert or media attention.

The “Ebony Alert” allows law enforcement to tell State Highway Patrol to activate highway signs notifying motorists of a missing person if the investigating agency believes it would help find the child or young adult. Bradford also says it “encourages” media outlets to disseminate information about the missing person.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People California Hawaii State Conference also helped usher the bill through passage.

The law “represents a historic breakthrough, guaranteeing that black children and young black women will receive the attention and protection they need when they are reported missing,” CA/HI NAACP President Rick L. Callender said. “This is a great first step to mitigating the racial inequities when it comes to black women and children when they go missing.”

California has other similar alert systems, including the Amber Alert for missing children generally, Blue Alert for people who attack law enforcement, the Silver Alert for missing seniors and people with disabilities, and the Feather Alert for missing Native Americans.

Photo credit: Washington Examiner

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