Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday signed into law a bill that creates a first-in-the-nation statewide alert system for missing Indigenous people.
The law creates a system similar to Amber Alerts and so-called silver alerts, which are used respectively for missing children and vulnerable adults in many states.
The system will notify law enforcement when there’s a report of a missing Indigenous person. It will also place messages on highway reader boards and on the radio and social media, and will provide information to the news media.
The law attempts to address a crisis of missing Indigenous people — particularly women — in Washington and across the United States. While it includes missing men, women and children, a summary of public testimony on the legislation notes that “the crisis began as a women’s issue, and it remains primarily a women’s issue.”
A 2021 report by a government watchdog found the true number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the U.S. is unknown due to reporting problems, distrust of law enforcement and jurisdictional conflicts. But Native American women face murder rates almost three times those of white women overall — and up to 10 times the national average in certain locations, according to a 2021 summary of the existing research by the National Congress of American Indians. More than 80% have experienced violence.
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