On Sunday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 673 into law, marking California as the first state in the nation to implement a distinct notification system for missing black youth between the ages of 12 and 25. The “Ebony Alert” system is designed to be utilized when these young individuals are reported as missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances, deemed at risk, have developmental disabilities, cognitive impairments, or have been abducted.
This innovative alert system, slated to become operational on January 1, 2024, empowers the state’s Highway Patrol to disseminate information through electronic signs regarding these disappearances. While radio, television, cable, satellite, and social media platforms are encouraged to aid in the dissemination of information, it is not mandatory.
According to statistics from the National Crime Center, in 2022, 141,000 black children under the age of 18 were reported as missing. Many advocacy organizations, including the Black and Missing Foundation, have emphasized that missing individuals of color are often not afforded the same level of media attention.
In numerous cases, these individuals are labeled as “runaways” and their cases are not elevated to the status of Amber Alerts.
State Sen. Steven Bradford, who initially introduced the bill in April, expressed the importance of this alert. He stated, “When someone who is missing is incorrectly listed as a runaway, they basically vanish a second time. They vanish from the police detectives’ workload. They vanish from the headlines. In many ways, no one even knows they are missing. How can we find someone and bring them home safely when no one is really looking for them?”
Bradford hopes that the “Ebony Alert” will address the often overlooked issue of missing Black children and young Black women in California and help locate them in the same dedicated manner as any missing child or individual.
It’s noteworthy that California has previously adopted other demographic-specific alert systems, such as the Silver Alert for missing seniors and the Feather Alert for missing Indigenous people.