Attorney General William Barr plans to increase the federal role in reducing the number of Native Americans who are murdered or reported missing every year, reports NPR.
Barr announced the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative after meeting with tribal leaders and law enforcement officials at the Flathead Reservation in Montana, home of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
“American Indian and Alaska Native people suffer from unacceptable and disproportionately high levels of violence, which can have lasting impacts on families and communities,” Barr said.
“Native American women face particularly high rates of violence, with at least half suffering sexual or intimate-partner violence in their lifetime. Too many of these families have experienced the loss of loved ones who went missing or were murdered.”
The crisis is not confined to reservations. More than 70 percent of Native Americans live in urban areas.
A study by the Urban Indian Health Institute found that in 2016 there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) database of missing persons logged only 116 cases.
The DOJ plan has three elements. DOJ will spend $1.5 million for coordinators in U.S. Attorney’s offices in 11 states to develop protocols for improving law enforcement response to reports of missing or murdered persons.
The FBI can be brought in at the request of tribal, state and local law enforcement. Rapid deployment teams specializing in child abduction, evidence collection and digital and social media analysis can be brought in.
DOJ will improve its missing-persons data by analyzing its databases and data collection practices.
“This is the stuff we’ve been advocating for,” Amber Crotty, a lawmaker on the Navajo Nation, told the Associated Press. “It’s just funding a slice of it.”
Additional Reading: Missing Native Woman’s Case Illustrates an ‘Epidemic’, The Crime Report, Feb. 26, 2019
Justice System ‘Fails to Protect’ Native American Women, The Crime Report, May 9, 2018