Double standard for missing persons?

February 7, 2011 3:14:32 PM PST
A group of Chicago ministers says there is an inequality in how police investigate missing persons reports in African-American and lower income communities.

The ministers met with Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis on Monday at police headquarters. The mother of missing teen Yasmin Acree, who disappeared in 2008, also participated.

"It's hard for me to give up hope, so I'm always going to believe she's out there," said Rose Starnes, Acree's mother.

Acree was 15 years old when she disappeared from her West Side home on January 15, 2008. The Austin Polytech High School honor student was a likely candidate to runaway, but her disappearance was at first classified as that. However, 13 months later the police department's internal affairs bureau determined that was a mistake. On Monday police followed up on the Acree case and discussed other unresolved cases in the city's poorer neighborhoods.

"...The superintendent's staff has assured us that this case is of top priority for the department," Rev. Marshall Hatch, Leader's Network, said.

Of immediate concern to the ministers and to Acree's family is to obtain an age-enhanced photo of what the girl would look like today, at 18. But they say they are also worried that other missing teenagers are not being looked for. And though the police department has not confirmed this number they claim there have been some 600 abductions in lower income neighborhoods in the last three years.

"...that there are not these assumptions that could be made, these cultural assumptions that lose valuable time at the outset of an investigation," said Rev. Hatch.

Maureen Biggane, Chicago Police Department spokesperson, released the following statement: The Department continues to aggressively investigate this case, and we understand the importance of providing regular updates to the family. We appreciate the efforts of the Acree family and the community to keep public attention on this case.

The department continues to aggressively investigate this case, and we understand the importance of providing regular updates to the family. We appreciate the efforts of the Acree family and the community to keep public attention on this case.

"If Yasmin can hear me out there, I want you to know that we are doing everything we can, we are working really, really hard. It's hard, but we're really trying," said Starnes.

A $3,000 reward is being offered for any information that leads to the whereabouts of Acree. Those who believe they may know something are urged to call Area Five police detectives.

It's hard to know how many people are abducted in the city of Chicago and how many just run away, but to put things into perspective, the police department tells us that 17,000 missing persons report were filed in the city just last year.

The meeting comes the day after the Chicago Police Department released its monthly crime report that shows an overall drop in crime, but increase in murders. On Sunday police released a January 2011 Crime Report that indicates:

  • Violent crime and Property crime dropped more than 10 percent compared to January of 2010.
  • Homicides increased with 22 homicides in January 2010 and 28 in January 2011.
  • Five homicides were reported over this past weekend alone. Community leaders are especially concerned with that spike because usually there are fewer violent crimes in such brutal weather.

      According to preliminary statistics through the end of January 2011:

      Violent Index Crime is down 10.2 percent

    • Homicide - up 27.3 percent
    • Criminal Sexual Assault - down 13.0 percent
    • Robbery- down 10.4 percent
    • Aggravated Assault - down 11.3 percent
    • Aggravated Battery - down 10.1 percent
    • Property Index Crime is down 10.7 percent

    • Burglary - down 6.0 percent
    • Theft - down 20.7 percent
    • Motor Vehicle Theft - up 21.8 percent
    • Arson - down 4.7 percent