Saying he is alarmed by the rate of attempted child abductions in the Chicago area -- as well as by the perceptions that the cases are handled less vigorously when they involve black and Latino youth -- U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., tomorrow will convene an “Emergency Summit on Missing and Endangered Children and Teens.”
The event, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. in the auditorium of Kennedy King College, 740 W. 63rd St., was called in response to a recent Chicago Tribune investigative series that examined 530 attempted child abductions by strangers in the city and suburbs since 2008, Rush said today in a statement.
The Tribune found that only 5 percent of those cases resulted in an arrest and prosecution. The newspaper also noted that in the 407 preliminary Chicago police reports identified by the Tribune since March 2008, the arrest rate was sharply lower in areas that had higher crime rates and more single-parent households and families on public assistance. This concentration of disparities correlates closely with race in Chicago, and those South and West Side census tracts were predominantly African-American and Hispanic.
“There has long been a perception in low-income neighborhoods where many people of color live that when their children go missing there is less urgency than when children from white or affluent communities disappear,” Rush said. “I called this summit to not only educate the communities about the predators lurking in our neighborhoods but to also address why this perception exists.”
Rush said he will be joined at the summit by Chicago Police Department Assistant Superintendent James Jackson; FBI Special Agent Sean Burke; Kirsten Anderson, national program director of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; First Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Shauna Boliker; prosecutor Patti Sudendorf of the Sex Crimes Division of the Cook County State’s Attorney's Office; 20th Ward Ald. Willie Cochran, a former Chicago Police officer; Kathy P. Chaney, online editor of the Chicago Defender; Rose Stearns, mother of missing teen Yasmin Acree; Sheila Powell, aunt of slain child Jahmeshia Conner; and Martha Torres, the grandmother of sisters Tionda and Diamond Bradley.
Acree was a 15-year-old student at Austin Polytech High School when she went missing three years ago from her West Side home. Family members criticized law enforcement for a “botched investigation” and for asserting the teen was a runaway despite evidence of forced entry into her home.
Conner was a fifth-grader living in the Englewood community in Rush’s district when she vanished while walking home from a bus stop less than two blocks from her home. The child’s relatives complained that police refused to issue an Amber Alert, believing the 12-year-old had run away from home. The girl was later found dead in an alley, having been sexually assaulted and strangled.
Another high-profile, unsolved case in Rush’s district involved the Bradley sisters, who went missing from their South Side neighborhood in July 2001, when they were 3 and 10 years old.
In his statement, Rush commended law enforcement for a recent arrest in the murder of 9-year-old Mya Lyons. “It was a horrific case, then, and now that her father has been arrested in her death it remains a horrific case now,” Rush said. “None of us should rest until each and every one of these cases involving missing, abducted and slain children are solved.”
Rush added: “My goal is (to) educate the community on ways to protect our children, as well as inform people of the processes, procedures, and resources that are in place for when a child goes missing. The constituents in my district must have the trust and confidence in their public officials that everything is being done to protect our children, and when a child is abducted, finding them and bringing the perpetrators to justice is a top priority for all of us whose job it is to protect the community.”