THE BRONX, N.Y. (PIX11) — A group of bounty hunters, who typically search for fugitives on the lam, recently helped locate two 13-year-old Bronx girls who had disappeared after school last month.
“We’re the ones who found the information that suggested they were in Poughkeepsie,” said “Wolf,” a private investigator who wore a tan, plaid headpiece and mask to protect his identity.
The two girls were last seen on the Bx6 bus near Yankee Stadium when they vanished on April 12. Ten days later, investigators from the Administration for Children’s Services found both girls near a Red Roof Inn in Poughkeepsie.
The bounty hunters work for a firm called the Noble Team and attended a summit in the Bronx on Friday, organized by the National Task Force for Missing and Murdered Women and Girls of Color. The summit was held at the New Settlement Community Center on Jerome Avenue. PIX11’s Mary Murphy was asked to moderate a panel with parents of those who have disappeared based on her reporting on The Missing series.
“There are over 70,000 Black missing girls of color in the United States,” said Dawn Rowe, director of the task force and founder of Girl Vow, which seeks to mentor endangered teens and young women. “The fact that this has been a hidden issue for girls of color brings us here today.”
“Ace,” the leader of the Noble Team, told summit attendees the number of missing girls has become “an epidemic.”
“There [are] not enough resources out there,” he said.
One of Ace’s associate bounty hunters, known as “Boogie,” spoke to the issue of missing girls on the streets, where the danger grows within 48 hours of their disappearance.
“Many of the traffickers use ketamine (a horse tranquilizer) or fentanyl to get the kids to pass out,” Ace said. “They’re then put in a room and forced to perform sex acts.”
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 92% of missing young people in the United States are considered endangered runaways. At the summit, young women who are trauma survivors spoke powerfully of the early experiences that sent them into an emotional spiral.
“I was put into an institution when I was 7 years old,” said Mariah, a young mom who will be 21 in October. “I remembered crying to my mom … Instead of helping me, they shot me with Thorazine. And I was in and out of institutions, pumped up with medications until I was 15.”
Mariah said she would tell them she’s not crazy, she just needed help. She said she transitioned into street drugs before getting pregnant with her son, who’s now 3 years old. She said getting pregnant forced her to get clean, and she’s benefitted greatly from the counseling services of Girl Vow. She now serves as one of their youth ambassadors and attends college.
One of the summit’s keynote speakers was Council Member Althea Stevens, the chair of the Committee on Youth Services who’s from District 16 in the West Bronx.
“Being a woman of color and the mother of a young woman, I feel it’s my duty to help as many young girls as possible,” Stevens said.
Shear Avory, a trans fem woman with the New Pride Agenda, said her community needs to be part of the conversation about missing and murdered young people.
“There have been hundreds of trans people who have gone missing in recent years,” Avory noted.
Dawn Rowe said the life expectancy of a girl who ends up trafficked is seven to 10 years.