Sometimes a child suddenly vanishes from the bus stop or the local park or even from their own yard or bedroom. Or a teenager doesn’t return home after a walk to the neighborhood grocery store or a bike ride or a party with friends.
Other times, an adult is mysteriously absent from their job or neighbors haven’t seen them for several days, and family and friends haven’t heard from them either.
Whatever the scenario might be, according to current statistics, 4,000 people in the United States go missing every day.
In each instance, time is of the essence.
Of course, most worried loved ones immediately want to contact the police.
Definitely, this is your first action if a child has disappeared or you are a witness to an incident involving a teen or adult being taken against their will.
However, if a teen or adult is suddenly unaccounted for with no evidence of foul play, police officers may ask you questions that you might feel—at the time—are insensitive or even accusatory.
It is normal to be upset and angry. All you want is for them to get busy finding the person you love or the person you witnessed getting abducted.
But in these moments, it is imperative to understand that officers are trying to rule out what often motivates a teen or adult to seemingly drop off the face of the earth.For example, if your teenage daughter is missing, you will likely be asked if she was upset about anything or if the two of you were arguing.
Starting the process of a missing person search
You will likely be asked if you closely monitor your daughter’s online activity, specifically if you monitor her conversations in chat rooms and if she has a boyfriend, a drug and alcohol problem or a history of behavior problems or running away.
If a husband reports his wife missing, he will very likely be asked if they were having marital trouble, if they might be in the middle of divorce plans, if she was possibly having an affair. Like the distraught mom, the worried husband might also be asked if he and his wife were arguing before he last saw her.
After detectives ask these questions, it’s best to quickly get past feeling offended and remember that law enforcement officers will need a lot of help from you.
Take the following steps:
- Grab a pen and paper. Then contact all family and friends. Let’s say you call your missing daughter’s best friend. She tells you that she waved at your daughter around 4 p.m. two days ago, while walking out of the mall. It might seem insignificant. But write it down. Ask which entrance the friend saw your daughter and what she was wearing. Ask if she appeared to be alone. When you make the calls, listen carefully. Remember the details. They might be crucial later.
- Keep a list of every person you contact, along with their telephone number, exactly what they told you and the date and time you called them.
- Contact your local hospitals and jail. Contact the police department to rule out that your loved one was arrested.
- Write down the following: The clothing your loved ones was wearing when you last saw them, any identifying marks on their body, such as tattoos, birthmarks, piercings or hair dye, along with their date of birth, height, weight, eye color.
- If your loved one has a serious medical condition, a history of mental illness or a drug and alcohol problem, write it all down for law enforcement.
- Write down any places you can think of where your loved one might hang out, such as a favorite bar or a specific place they like to hike or be alone when they are upset.
- Investigate social media, from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram. Repeatedly call their cell phone. If your teen or adult loved one shares a credit card or debit card with you, check for activity on both.
- Even after filing a missing person report with police, some families choose to hire a private investigator (PI) who specializes in finding missing people. Like detectives, these professionals are often highly skilled in collecting possible evidence, gathering witness testimony and asking shop owners for access to surveillance tapes before too many days go by and a few days of video is erased or copied over with new footage in their businesses. Some of these investigators will also launch a GoFundMe page to help offset expenses for the family.
- Create Missing Person flyers. It is imperative to use the most current photo of your loved one. Find a close up image of their face without blurring. Do not use a profile photo. Make sure the flyer includes the direct phone number to reach the officer working your family’s case. Do not include your own personal contact information. Post the flyers in high traffic areas, such as restaurants, shopping malls, arcades, gas stations, local grocery stores, the public library, the police department, nearby rest stops and truck stops. Also post your flyer to social media, asking others to help you circulate the flyer by sharing it to their own listing of friends.
National and global resources for a missing person search
If you’re helping with a missing person search—whether it happened recently or months or years ago, most states have resources to help you search databases and tools needed to find answers.
For those looking for information on missing persons, these national resources are available::
- Anti Predator Project: A national team dedicated to freeing young people from human trafficking and recovery of missing American children
- Black and Missing: Addresses the disparities in media coverage of white and minority persons who go missing
- The Doe Network: Assists with unidentified and missing persons cases
- Find Me: Assists law enforcement and families in locating missing loved ones, assisting in solving homicides and identifying victims of human trafficking
- The International Commission on Missing Persons: Helps families who suspect loved ones may have been taken against their will, from one country to another
- LostNMissing: An all-volunteer organization that helps law enforcement officials and families find missing persons
- Missing Persons Center: A global central reporting agency that features a missing persons cases database
- Missing Persons of America: An organization that collects and provides information on thousands of missing people every year
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: National organization that features the 24-hour hotline 1-800-The-Lost
- National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs): A national database of missing persons run by the National Institute of Justice
- The Polly Klaas Foundation: A foundation that has helped more than 10,000 families find missing children
- Saved in America: A nonprofit organization of former police officers and Navy SEALs who assist in locating missing and exploited children
Local resources for missing persons
In addition to researching national resources, it’s important to search locally and regionally for law enforcement agencies and organizations that can assist in missing person cases. Here are some resources to get started:
- Alabama Law Enforcement Missing Persons
- Alaska Department Of Public Safety Missing Persons Bulletin
- Arizona Department of Public Safety
- California Department Of Justice Missing Persons
- Colorado Bureau Of Investigation Missing Persons
- Connecticut Division Of Criminal Justice Missing Persons
- Delaware State Police Missing Persons
- Florida Department Of Law Enforcement Missing Person Clearinghouse
- Georgia Bureau Of Investigation Missing Persons
- Hawaii Department Of Social Services Missing Children
- Idaho State Police Missing Person Clearinghouse
- Illinois State Police Clearinghouse For Missing Persons
- Indiana State Police Missing Person Bulletin
- Iowa Department Of Public Safety Missing Persons
- Kansas Bureau Of Investigation Missing Persons
- Kentucky State Police Missing Persons
- Louisiana Repository For Missing Persons
- Maine State Police Missing Persons
- Maryland Missing Report
- Massachusetts State Police Missing Persons
- Michigan State Police Missing Persons
- Minnesota Bureau Of Criminal Apprehension Missing Persons
- Mississippi Missing Report
- Missouri State Highway Patrol Missing Persons
- Montana Department Of Justice Missing Persons
- Nebraska State Patrol Missing Persons
- Nevada Missing Report
- New Hampshire Division Of State Police Missing Persons
- New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit
- New Mexico Department Of Public Safety Missing Persons
- New York State Missing Persons Clearinghouse
- North Carolina Department Of Public Safety Missing Persons
- North Dakota Attorney General Cold Cases
- Ohio Attorney General Missing Persons
- Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner Missing Persons
- Oregon State Police Missing Persons Clearinghouse
- Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers Missing Persons
- Rhode Island Department Of Public Safety Missing Children
- South Carolina State Law Enforcement Missing Persons
- South Dakota Missing Persons
- Tennessee Bureau Of Investigation Missing Persons
- Texas Department Of Public Safety Missing Person Clearinghouse
- Utah Department Of Public Safety Missing Persons
- Vermont State Police Missing Persons
- Virginia State Police Missing Persons
- Washington State Police Missing Persons Unit
- Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Missing Persons
- West Virginia State Police Missing Persons
- Wisconsin Missing Persons
- Wyoming Missing Persons
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