ARIZONA NEWS

DOJ launches program to help missing and murdered indigenous persons crisis

Jul 6, 2023, 4:15 AM | Updated: 6:12 am

FILE - Dennis Willard, of Bellevue, Wash., carries a sign that reads "Where Is She" as he marches i...

FILE - Dennis Willard, of Bellevue, Wash., carries a sign that reads "Where Is She" as he marches in support of missing and murdered indigenous women during a rally to mark Indigenous Peoples' Day in downtown Seattle, on Oct. 14, 2019. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law a bill that creates a first-in-the-nation statewide alert system for missing Indigenous people. The law creates a system similar to Amber Alerts and so-called silver alerts, which are used respectively for missing children and vulnerable adults in many states. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

PHOENIX — The Department of Justice announced last week it created a program designated for missing or murdered indigenous people.

The Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Regional Outreach Program places 10 attorneys and coordinators in five designated regions across the United States to aid in the prevention and response to missing or murdered indigenous people.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the program mobilizes the Justice Department’s resources to combat the crisis of missing or murdered indigenous persons.

“The Justice Department will continue to accelerate our efforts, in partnership with Tribes, to keep their communities safe and pursue justice for American Indian and Alaska Native families,” Garland said in a press release.

MMIP’s reach will span from Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Michigan and Minnesota, the Associated Press reported.

A total of five attorneys and five coordinators will be dispatched to the various regions to help with investigations of unsolved cases and related crimes.

“These new positions represent the Justice Department’s continuing commitment to addressing the MMIP crisis with urgency and all of the tools at our disposal,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in the press release.

“MMIP prosecutors and coordinators will work with partners across jurisdictions and alongside the Tribal communities who have been most devastated by this epidemic.”

The program prioritizes MMIP cases consistent with the Deputy Attorney General’s July 2023 directive to U.S. Attorneys’ offices promoting public safety in Indiana County, according to a DOJ press release.

United States Attorney Gary Restaino said vindicating the rights of missing and murdered indigenous persons and their families is a top priority for the office.

“As home to 22 federally-recognized tribes, this District has been thinking about — and working on — this issue for several years. It is a complex issue, with no easy solution. Hosting an MMIP coordinator for the Region will allow us to dedicate even more resources to this important issue,” Restaino said in the press release.

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DOJ launches program to help missing and murdered indigenous persons crisis