Utah ranked in the top 10 states for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls cases

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, in Salt Lake City on Jan. 21. Romero and a bipartisan task force hope to combat the high rate of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Utah.

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, in Salt Lake City on Jan. 21. Romero and a bipartisan task force hope to combat the high rate of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Utah. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — In a national study, Utah and Salt Lake City both ranked in the top 10 of states and cities for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls cases.

Nearly 6,000 indigenous women have gone missing since 2016, but the Department of Justice missing persons database only shows 116 such cases. On top of that, Indigenous women are murdered at a rate 10 times higher than all other ethnicities, according to the National Institute of Justice.

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, and a bipartisan task force hope to combat this issue in Utah.

"Native women and girls go missing all the time and they don't get the same attention," Romero said.

Following the worldwide headlines around Gabby Petito, Romero says a larger conversation was started around how missing people cases are handled; including those of indigenous women. According to the U.S. Justice Department, on some reservations, these women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than the national average.

"Put a spotlight on this epidemic. It is happening across the country," Romero said.

The task force is asking for a one-time allocation of $130,000 for the next two years. The goal is to travel to all nine recognized tribal communities in Utah — and to research where and how the state can make improvements to prevent violence towards indigenous women and girls.

"(There are) a lot of complications when collecting data so we want to make sure it is being collected correctly," Romero said.

A lack of data is a problem right now. Sometimes these cases are reported or classified incorrectly due to jurisdiction issues.

Romero said they are also in conversations with law enforcement leaders on how they can come up with solutions to the jurisdiction issues with some investigations.

"That is why this study is needed so we can figure out what we can do here at the state level," Romero said.

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