Missing teenagers has been a hot-button issue in the DMV (and across the nation) since 10 black females recently went missing in D.C. in the span of a week.

D.C. Police credited their increased use of social media for bringing more attention to the issue.

Although police said there was no uptick in the amount of missing girls, community members still felt inclined to draw more attention to the issue — starting their own search committees.

On Wednesday, the Joe Clair Morning Show talked with Chanel Dickerson, the new commander of the D.C. Police Youth and Family Services Division, about the reasons these teens are missing and how families can avoid the problem.

Joe Clair: What is going on? Why are these missing?

Dickerson: I want to start by saying that one missing person is one person too many, so when I say that we have not experienced an increase in the missing person cases, I’m in no way minimizing the number of reported cases.

Joe Clair: Why does it seem like there is a surge?

Dickerson: When I joined the Youth and Family Services division in December of 2016, I increased the number of press releases and social media posts about the missing juveniles in the city…which has caused great concern that juveniles were being abducted or victims of human trafficking.

Steph Lova: We’ve been hearing that most of these are runaways, is that true?

Dickerson: Sadly, that is true. A large number of our cases are runaways and I am concerned because while they are missing, they’re without parental guidance, absent from school, and at risk of victimization.

Joe Clair: Why do you think so many are running away?

Dickerson: I have no idea, I’m just trying to get to the bottom of it. I’m trying to solicit help from communities and faith-based organizations to find out the root cause why so many young people in our city are voluntarily leaving home.

Joe Clair: And once again, this is no new epidemic? This is something that’s been going on but just since December you’ve done a lot more press so that we’re just now taking note of the numbers?

Dickerson: That’s absolutely correct. I just want to make sure that every case receives the same level of attention and service.

Steph Lova: So are you having any success with bringing some of these teens home safely and closing some of these cases?

Dickerson: Most of the teens are located within a short period of time. Since the press releases and social media posts, my email is overwhelmed and I’ve received so many phone calls of people thanking me for putting the press out there.

Joe Clair: What safety and preventative measures can you suggest for parents and for teens?

Dickerson: The first thing I would like to ask everyone to do is just talk to the young people. We have to start there, it’s as basic as talking to them and seeing what’s going on. A lot of young people will not share with the police why they’re leaving home or where they were. So we just need the communities to get involved. When you see a young person, talk to the young person, ask them how their day is going or how they’re doing in school.

Joe Clair: What can you say to young people who may be contemplating leaving?

Dickerson: I would tell them to think about their decision because it could affect the rest of their lives. I want the teens and any person that’s reported missing in the District of Columbia to know the Metropolitan is committed to investigating their cases and we will come look for them. I would also like to tell anyone that’s thinking about preying upon a young person in the District of Columbia, we will come looking for them and we will find you.

Joe Clair: What preventative measures can young people take, specifically so they don’t become a victim of human trafficking?

Dickerson: Stay home, it’s as simple as that. If they stay home, it reduces the risk. I’m not saying that’s the fix-all but that’s where we have to start. We have to start small, this is a problem and it’ll take a community effort, but we have to start small.

Community members and celebrities took issue with Dickerson’s advice to “stay home” to avoid the dangers of trafficking.

Listen to the full interview here:

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