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DC Mayor Gives Progress Report on Effort to Help Runaway Teens

D.C.'s mayor says the city has completed most of its six initiatives to help protect young people after false reports about missing teens went viral on social media earlier in the year.

Mayor Muriel Bowser reiterated Wednesday that there is no increase in the number of teens reported missing and most of those who are reported missing are runaways who often return home a few days later.

"We have no evidence at this juncture that of any our children were abducted or taken off of our streets but they are vulnerable and they are in danger," Bowser said at a news conference.

As reports of missing teens gained more attention on social media in April, Bowser created a "Working Group" of public and private sector experts to make recommendations. 

One recommendation was to create a safe place where runaway teens can go for help. D.C. officials say that safe place should be ready in a few months.

"The ultimate goal is to move further upstream so we're doing more prevention and family intervention so that the kids don't run in the first place," Deputy Mayor Brenda Donald said.

Stacie Reimer, an attorney who advocates for at-risk teens, is part of Bowser's working group and said the teens who runaway often need legal help in addition to counseling and job training. 

"A lot of the kids have either been victims of a crime or they're facing arrest. They need a lawyer right there with them to help them. They might want to report criminal activity or they may be afraid of being arrested. Either way, they need a lawyer," Reimer said.

So far this year, 885 juveniles have been reported missing and the majority of those are under the age of 15, according to officials.

As of Wednesday, there are 28 open missing juvenile cases.

Below are the six initiatives and their status, according to Bowser.

1. Increase number of police officers assigned to help find missing children - Complete: The Metropolitan Police Department has 15 detectives and officers with the Youth and Family Services Division.

2. Expand missing persons site and social media messaging - Complete: D.C. has updated to include resources for families and teens, missing alert flyers, missing person statistics.

3. Establish Missing Persons Evaluation and Reconnection Resources Collaborative - Draft completed: The evaluation will examine why children ran away and help agencies provide more resources to the child and family. 

4. The Working Group - Recommendations submitted: Government and community partners came up with recommendations for "response protocol, support for youth and families and prevention."

5. Additional grant support for non-profits addressing runaway children -- Grant awards will be announced mid-July

6. PSA to address missing children in D.C. - Complete: The mayor's office shot a PSA to educate young people and the public on preventing children from running away from home.

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