SACRAMENTO (CNN) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a new law that can help track down young people of color who have disappeared.
Amber Alerts have been around for two decades. Since that time, more than 370 children and at-risk individuals have been located. However, some critics say African Americans are often overlooked by the notification system.
“You see the difference of when White girls go missing and Black girls go missing,” said Berry Accius, the founder of Voice of the Youth. “The sense of urgency is not there.”
“African Americans, whether they are children or young adults, are often listed as runaways,” said California Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena.
Bradford is the author of a new law that creates Ebony Alerts for a community disproportionately impacted by missing youth.
“African American young individuals make up almost 40% of those individuals who come up missing,” he said.
“It’s going to put significant change in how we react, how we respond,” Accius said.
Accius said many young women who vanish end up being victims of sex trafficking.
“Here in Sacramento, a lot of our girls get exploited and that’s the major concern for me,” he said.
In addition to Amber Alerts, California also has Blue Alerts for suspects who attack a law enforcement office, Silver Alerts for missing seniors and people with disabilities, and Feather Alerts for missing indigenous people.
So how is an Ebony Alert different?
“Expanding the age from 12 to 25 because right now, an Amber Alert is for 17 years or younger,” Sen. Bradford said.
Black youth considered at-risk or with mental or physical challenges will qualify.
Ebony Alerts can also use technology like roadside signs and electronic notifications.
“With this, the attention, the need, the urgency I feel will be met and it’s going to be a game changer,” Accius said.
The California Highway Patrol and the state Office of Emergency Services will now work on getting the program started. The alert system takes effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
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