California signs Ebony Alert law to combat gaps in finding missing youths of colour

The legislation will go into effect on 1 January 2024

Andrea Blanco
Wednesday 11 October 2023 00:23 BST
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Government is sending emergency alert messages on your phone, here’s what they mean

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a new bill into law to help address the disparity in missing persons cases involving Black children and young Black women.

The newly enacted legislation, dubbed Ebony Alert, is the first of its kind in the country, according to the bill’s co-sponsor Senator Steven Bradford.

The law will go into effect at the beginning of next year, allowing California Highway Patrol to activate the alert when Black children and women between the ages of 12 and 25 are reported missing by local law enforcement.

The Ebony Alert operates in a similar fashion as the Amber Alert — but the latter is only for individuals 17 years or younger — activating electronic highway signs to alert the public of the missing person.

It also encourages television, cable, online, radio, and social media outlets to “cooperate with disseminating the information contained in an Ebony Alert.”

“Today, California is taking bold and needed action to locate missing Black children and Black women in California. I want to thank the Governor for signing the Ebony Alert into law,” Sen Bradford said in a statement.

He added: “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. The Ebony Alert can change this.”

Mr Bradford said that Black youth do not receive the Amber Alert or media attention when they go missing because they are disproportionately classified as “runaways” in comparison to their white counterparts.

The nationwide Amber Alert system was named after Amber Hagerman, a Texas girl who was abducted and murdered in January 1996. Officials say that more than 1,100 have been rescued using the Amber Alert system since it was implemented in 1997.

California already has Silver Alerts, for missing and endangered seniors as well as Feather Alerts, for missing indigenous individuals.

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