Minnesota task force aims to examine missing black women epidemic

Brittany Clardy (Supplied)

In the U.S. it’s estimated that there’s more than 60,000 Black women and girls who are missing. A new task force in Minnesota will be the first in the country to examine the crisis.

LaKeisha Lee recalls the day her sister Brittany Clardy disappeared on Feb. 11, 2013. 

"That day when we couldn’t get a hold of her, we knew that something was wrong immediately," Lee told FOX 9. 

She says that her family contacted authorities, but were turned away initially.

"They said oh 18-year-olds do this all the time. She probably just ran away and we were like ‘No. We are the experts on our family, we know something is wrong,’" Lee recalled.

Nearly two weeks after Brittany vanished, her lifeless body was found inside a car in Columbia Heights. The 18-year-old was killed at the hands of a man who solicited her for sex.

"It was difficult, it was one of the most difficult times in my life," Lee said. 

Brittany's sister LaKeisha Lee talks about her sister's death (FOX 9)

But unfortunately, Brittany’s story is one shared by many. 

"The trends are really showing that the rates of domestic violence, the rates of homicide, they’re increasing," Representative Ruth Richardson says. 

The DFL state lawmaker represents district 52B, and is the head of the newly created Minnesota Task Force for Murdered and Missing Black Women and Girls.

According to Minnesota Public Safety, while 13 percent of Minnesotans are African American, about 30 percent of murder victims are African American women.

"When we are not investing the time, the resources and the law enforcement energy. When we don’t have equitable coverage by media organizations, it makes it easier for these cases to stay open longer," Richardson said.

(FOX 9)

She has introduced a bill that would create an office solely focused on the issue.

"I think the most important overall goal is prevention," she said.

A little more than a year after she was murdered, Brittany’s Place opened its doors on St. Paul’s East Side as the largest shelter in Minnesota for sexually exploited youth. 

"To be able to work towards prevention, to be able to come together and have a community response. That is what I want this report to show," Lee said. 

It's in loss that Lee finds hope now.

"I believe that everything happens for a reason. Because now, my sister’s life is saving so many others," she says. 

Representative Richardson says that the task force is expected to wrap up its work by the end of the year. 

In partnership with youth advocacy group 180 degrees, Brittany's Place has plans to expand its housing services for trafficking victims this spring.