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WA Starts State Alert System For Missing Indigenous People

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill creating the nation's first statewide alert system for missing indigenous people. The system works like an Amber or Silver alert and will broadcast information about missing indigenous people on highway message signs and in highway-advisory radio messages, the Wall Street Journal reports. The new system was designed to give law-enforcement officials better tools to disseminate timely, accurate information. The legislation notes the “unique challenges that indigenous communities face accessing media coverage and the ability to share information.”

Chris Loftis of the Washington State Patrol said the system will help alleviate miscommunication between agencies about missing indigenous persons. “The reality is, like any net, there’s holes in the net and people fall through,” he said. The state has 29 federally recognized tribes, all of which have their own form of law enforcement. “And then you have a state and federal system, and unfortunately there are ways people can and do fall through the cracks,” he said. Indigenous people make up two percent of the state’s population, but up to seven percent of its missing persons. More than four times as many indigenous women go missing than white women in Washington, says the Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle.


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