Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Police are concerned that a 12-year-old girl from Texas, who has been missing for more than a week, might have been taken for human trafficking

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A 12-year-old girl disappeared from Houston, Texas, a week ago, and there’s a chance she might be in danger, according to the police who issued an Amber Alert.

Initially, they thought E’minie Hughes left willingly on February 22, but now, after investigating, they suspect she might have been taken and forced into something bad. The police haven’t shared exactly why they believe this.

When she vanished, she was seen getting into a dark four-door truck at around 1:40 a.m., wearing a white top and pink pants. The police believe she’s still in the Houston area. They mentioned on Thursday that she could be using a social media app called Tagged, which is about making friends or dating.

Tagged’s parent company, The Meet Group, told CNN that they contacted Houston law enforcement to help with the situation.

“Our rules say kids can’t use our apps, and we use tech and manual checks to find out if someone lied about their age to join our platform,” the company said. “If we hear about any tricks to get around our rules, we look into any reports of a possible minor or child exploitation.”

Police didn’t share more details about how the child being on Tagged might relate to the case. CNN asked Houston Police for more info on the investigation.

A mom, Shannon Williams, said on CNN affiliate KPRC that she last saw her daughter before bed on Thursday, but she was gone in the morning.

E’minie took an Android tablet and the clothes she was wearing, according to the mom. Williams doesn’t know if E’minie was talking to someone online. The girl had gone for a walk a few hours before disappearing, her mom said.

“I hope she’s safe,” Williams told KPRC. In their last talk, E’minie asked her mom to wake her up early for school the next day, according to CNN affiliate KHOU.

In the US, around 460,000 kids go missing each year, as per a 2023 Department of Justice release. About 1 in 6 of the 28,800 cases reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2023 were likely child trafficking victims, according to the nonprofit. Last year, the center got over 18,400 reports of possible child trafficking.

Holly Priebe Sotelo, a social work professor at The University of Southern California, told CNN that parents should keep “open communication” with their kids about building healthy relationships and setting boundaries, especially online. “Parents can’t keep up with all the latest threats,” Sotelo said. “So, they need to talk to their kids every day about setting healthy boundaries.”

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