Washington State Patrol on Friday launched a missing Indigenous person alert system, hoping to address the crisis of missing Indigenous people, often women.
The bill creating the first-in-the-nation alert system was signed into law in March by Gov. Jay Inslee.
According to the Government Accountability Office, the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the U.S. is unknown because of reporting problems, distrust of law enforcement and jurisdictional conflicts. However, according to research by the National Congress of American Indians, Native American women face murder rates almost three times those of white women — and up to 10 times the national average in certain locations.
The alert system adds a new designation of “Missing Indigenous Persons” to the existing alert systems in place, similar to Amber alerts for children and silver alerts for missing seniors.
Once the alert is activated, all Washington law enforcement will be notified electronically and WSP’s Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit will distribute the information to a list of subscribers. To subscribe to any of WSP’s missing persons alerts, visit wsp.wa.gov/crime/alerts-missing-persons.
The state Department of Transportation will also begin sharing known vehicle information on its variable message signs and highway advisory radios in appropriate areas, WSP said.
“This is a significant step for our state and agency,” Carri Gordon, director of Washington State Patrol’s missing and unidentified persons unit, said in an online statement. “We know that indigenous people go missing at a significantly higher rate than the general population.”
Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the first name of Carri Gordon, director of Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit.