Minnesota has created the U.S.’s first Office of Missing and Murdered African American Women and Girls, reports NPR. The office will investigate cold cases and reopen cases where Black women or girls were declared to have died by suicide or drug overdose if the situation was suspicious. It will also assist police agencies and community groups in active cases and serve as a new point of contact for those reluctant to speak with police. State Rep. Ruth Richardson said the agency could help cut down on racial disparities. A Minnesota task force reported last year that while African American women and girls comprise 7% of the population in the state, they represented 40% of domestic violence victims and are nearly three times more likely than their white peers to be murdered.
Members of the task force and advocates said law enforcement often ignores calls for assistance when Black women go missing and families must organize their own search efforts. "The help just isn't there," says Verna Cornelia Price, who runs a mentorship program for girls in Minneapolis called Girls Taking Action. "The police, they're just telling us that our girl is a prostitute, or she's a runaway," Price said. "So we've had to just kind of step in there and navigate for ourselves how to keep our girls safe." Jeff Potts of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association said having a central office that can collect missing people reports from around the state and be a point of contact for concerned families will be an asset. Lakeisha Lee, whose sister Brittany Clardy was murdered, said the office could spur new hope for families of missing and murdered Black girls in Minnesota.