Minnesota is set to launch the nation's first Office of Missing and Murdered African American Women and Girls, NPR reports.
Over the past couple of years, a Minnesota task force has focused its efforts on understanding why African American women and girls go missing and are murdered at a disproportionate rate. The task force reported last year that African American women and girls represent 40 percent of domestic violence victims, while the group only makes up 7 percent of the state's population. They are also roughly three times more likely to be murdered than their white counterparts.
State Rep. Ruth Richardson (D) carried the bill to create the Office of Missing and Murdered African American Women and Girls to cut down on the disparity. The bill was enacted into law earlier this year.
"This is a real, true crisis," Richardson said. "One of the reasons this is so important is because when we see this data that our cases are not getting solved, or cases are not getting resources, it actually puts a target on the back of Black women and girls."
The office will aim to investigate cold cases as well as reopen cases where Black women or girls were said to have died by suicide or drug overdose if the circumstances were suspicious. It will also serve as an assist to police agencies and community groups in active cases and a point of contact for individuals reluctant to speak with police.
Lakeisha Lee, a leader of Minnesota's task force whose sister was murdered, says she is hopeful that the office will be helpful for families of missing and murdered Black girls.
"We can work towards a community intervention model that really serves all families for generations so that the office doesn't have to be a forever office," Lee said. "We can end this epidemic."