The disappearance of more than a dozen teen girls from the Bronx has the community on edge.
Over the last two years, 14 young girls have been reported missing; six of them disappeared just this month. Suspecting possible abduction and forced prostitution, a local city council member is urging the community to take action to keep more young girls from going missing.
New York Council member Andy King addressed community members at a press conference Thursday as he read the names of the 14 missing girls, the New York Daily News reports. Many of the girls are Black and Latina, ranging in age from 12-17. According to King, some of the teens have been missing since July 2014.
“Every other day, every other week, our young girls … are just vanishing off our streets,” King said at the press conference. “We need to make sure that our children stay safe. Understanding and learning more that there is a valid active prostitution ring that is occurring up here in the Bronx, we need to find ways to shut it down.”
According to the New York Daily News, among the missing is 14-year-old Sierra Rivera, who was last seen in the area on June 2. Police sources say she reportedly ran off with her boyfriend.
“She was a very nice girl,” said neighbor Khadijeh Daglowi, who was shocked to hear Sierra had vanished. “She’d always sit out and listen to music with the kids.”
Ashley Bissal, 16, was last seen June 23 leaving her apartment, authorities report. According to her family, Ashley was supposed to pick up her 10-year-old sister from school that day but never showed.
Fifteen-year-old Emily Arroyo has been missing since April 15, the day she was scheduled to return home from a juvenile program, the New York Daily News reports. Family members say the teen suffers from ADHD and has vanished twice before.
The NYPD is in the process of reviewing its missing persons cases and said it is looking into King’s allegations of abduction and forced prostitution.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, 81 cases of human trafficking have been reported this year in New York, 31 of which involved minors. Fifty-five of the 234 calls made to the national hotline were reported human trafficking tips.
To prevent other girls from suffering the same fate, King has proposed the creation of safe zones at local businesses, New York 1 News reports. King said the safe zones will allow victims of crimes or anyone in danger to take refuge inside and speak to NYPD officers.
According to the news station, businesses that volunteer for the program will have to undergo training by the NYPD before they become a certified safe zone.
So far, six businesses have signed up to participate, News 12 The Bronx reports.