In the last few months, it feels as if the timelines are seeing an increasing number of appeals for missing Black children, sadly, more so than usual, but that’s seems to be as far as it goes.
Marianne Miles puts the spotlight on the worrying issue and highlights what some members of the Black community are doing about it.
The recent spate of increasing numbers of missing Black children is causing real concern among parents in the capital. Seemingly, every few day there is another picture posted of a young cousin or young sibling who has disappeared from the streets of London, a fact which seems all the more inexplicable when you consider London is a city with a reported 691,000 CCTV cameras monitoring our every move, one for every 13 people!
Sadly, it appears that a good portion of these cases are written off as ‘county lines’ incidents; where young children are groomed before being recruited to work for older drug dealers in the suburbs around England for weeks at a time. But surely not all of these cases can be attributed to this scourge. Could the recent increase in missing reports be due to the fact that these targeted children are not leaving willingly or are simply not being recruited fast enough? Could that really be why increased numbers are falling victim to attempted and successful child abductions in London in the past month?
A man and woman were arrested by police on 21 May after reports of two separate attempted child abduction incidents in the Enfield area. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the public, a white van used in the suspected abduction was identified and the police were able to trace the couple and charge them. However, at time of writing, the couple were already out on bail until June.
Police have also stated that this arrest is not linked to an incident which generated a lot of interest on social media recently; that of 10-year-old boy who was allegedly snatched on his way to school at 8am and forced into a van and sedated. According to the boy’s mother, he woke up in the van where he saw two other children asleep, he managed to get free and was later found by teachers from his school and police.
Further reports go further and suggest that the 10-year-old was taken to a house with several other kidnapped children, but those accounts are so far unsubstantiated.
As reported in My London News, Detective Chief Superintendent Treena Fleming, who is in charge of policing for Enfield and Haringey, said: “I would like to reassure my local community that we take all allegations of this nature very seriously; we understand the concerns and strength of feeling, particularly amongst parents, when we hear of potential incidents involving children.”
However, cases are not limited to this area. Line of Duty actress Sherise Blackman, who plays Ruby Jones, posted about the attempted kidnapping of her 11-year-old son at the end of April in Beckenham, SE London.
Sherise Blackman’s son was approached by two men in a small black van offering him a lift on his way home from school in Beckenham, SE London. The boy managed to run away, but they followed him into a park where thankfully he was saved by teenagers whose presence scared off the attackers.
Sherise has claimed that the police did not take the incident seriously at first, asking her son if he had ‘beef’ with other kids instead of treating the case like a legitimate child abduction. The police have since admitted to having an “insufficient response” to the incident.
Adding to the fear and worry is the fact that there is little to no mainstream media coverage about these cases. Without social media there would be any information or an arrest. This vacuum is causing speculation that gangs are participating in child trafficking and targeting Black children, specifically because they are aware that there will be a lacklustre response from police, which is a telling and dangerous state of affairs for our children.
Apart from making our children aware, telling them to remain vigilante, or physically taking our children to and from school, what more can we do? There have been calls to ‘police our own communities’ and some have taken up this call.
Community group Forever Family in conjunction with Faron Paul, a community leader who takes knives from youth all over London in exchange for shopping vouchers, have been setting up patrols in local areas where there have been reports of attempted abductions.
Taking a practical approach, one twitter user @dominiconorton has created a website dedicated to reporting all cases of Black people who have been reported missing in the UK.
— Mr. Hackathon (@dominiconorton) May 23, 2021
What’s more, the MissingBlackPeople collective has launched a petition to parliament to investigate why missing persons are disproportionately impacting people from the Black community. At time of writing more than 13,000 people had signed the petition, which means the Government will respond. At 100,000 signatures the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.
While another police branch, this time Croydon, is calling for people not to speculate about the attempted kidnappings. Croydon MPS superintendent Andy Brittain said in a statement: “I am aware of varying reports online both in the news and on social media and I fully understand the concerns of parents in light of these reports,” he said.
“I would encourage the public to remain vigilant, but not to be unduly alarmed. Child kidnappings or abductions are, thankfully, incredibly rare, but we are not complacent.”
According to recent data from the National Crime Agency, (which does not currently have a breakdown in missing people by age), Black people account for 14 per cent of missing people in England and Wales between 2019 and 2020, that’s more than four times the relative population.
Despite the reassuring words, sadly, the numbers are not adding up.