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Albuquerque to focus on Native missing persons cases

Albuquerque officials cast a spotlight on the city’s missing Native Americans on Friday, saying police figures show 42 open missing person cases involving Native Americans so far this year.

For 2018, 36 open missing persons cases remain in Albuquerque, said Dawn Begay, the city’s Native American affairs coordinator. Of the 36 missing in 2018, 15 were women.

Begay shared the numbers at an event held to highlight the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in New Mexico’s largest city, where she has worked with the Native American community both in government and in the nonprofit sector for years.

The event in Albuquerque at the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute focused, in part, on services available to the city’s Native American community and others on how to report missing persons cases and available resources.

“If someone goes missing what do you do?” Begay asked, her question met with silence. “It’s not really something we’re taught, right?”

Options range from calling 911 when witnessing an abduction to going to the city’s police station and filing a missing persons report when or if a family member has not been seen for an unusual amount of time, she said.

The figures she released Friday offer a glimpse into the number of missing persons cases in Albuquerque as legislation in a growing number of states calls for establishing committees and commissioning reviews into the handling of Native Americans’ missing persons cases. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham this past week appointed eight members to a task force established to examine deaths and disappearances among Native Americans.

Arizona represents another state that established a study committee on the issue this year.

Albuquerque – a city with a high percentage of Native American residents compared to the national rate – also is among cities considered to have had a high number of missing Native American women, according to a report that the Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle released last year.

Authors of the report counted 37 missing person and homicide cases for Native American women in Albuquerque.

The report had counted cases based on police records and media reports in 71 cities dating back to the 1940s, with researchers saying roughly two-thirds of the cases had emerged in the past eight years.

In total, there were some 500 missing persons and homicide cases involving Native American women in all 71 cities, according to the report.

Eight Native Americans have been victims of homicides in the city so far this year, according to Albuquerque police data. Five were among the city’s homicide victims in 2018.

Begay said Albuquerque leaders have plans in place to expand staff in her office, which is tasked with serving the city’s Native American population.