According to current statistics, 4,000 people in the United States go missing every day. 

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.

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. 


How to start 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 were 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 share a credit card or debit card with you, check for activity on both.  
  • Even after filing a missing person report with the 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::


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: