The first forty-eight hours are the most important in a missing person investigation. During this window, it is easier for the police to track down leads and chase possible suspects. Unfortunately, after the first few days, finding a missing person becomes a lot harder as the trail goes cold. In some instances, the trail may remain cold for many months or years – unless the victim gets a lucky break.
The case of Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus, and Michele Knight is a good example of how long a missing persons case might last. The details behind the case aren’t pleasant. All three girls were held captive for over a decade. Their abductor, Ariel Castro, kept them locked in the basement for years – often leaving them tied in chains. During the period, he fathered a child with one of the girls and was responsible for several forced abortions.
There is no knowing how long these women might have remained in captivity if they hadn’t escaped. Sensing an opportunity, Amanda Berry drew the attention of a neighbor with her scream. Thinking it was a domestic argument, the neighbor helped her to break free of the prison-home. She was able to place a quick 911 call using her neighbor’s phone and was rescued within the next five minutes. The police searched the house and found the other women before arresting Ariel Castro on several charges of abduction.
Over the past decade, there have been several cases like this and each follows the same pattern. First, there is the communal relief that the victims are safe. Then, there is anger at the abductor. Then – inevitably – the public begins to question whether the police could have done something better. Interestingly, no one ever seems to question whether the family could have done something different – for example, by hiring a private investigator to assist with the case.
Working with a Private Investigator
Private investigators aren’t replacements for the law enforcement, but they do offer an invaluable second option – especially if the missing person case has already stretched for more than a month. Most private investigators have good relationships with the local law enforcement, which makes it easy for them to coordinate their efforts with the police detectives handling the case.
The non-official status of a private investigator also offers several useful benefits, which may prove essential in solving the case. For instance, it is easier for a detective to blend in society. People are more likely to reveal sensitive information to a private investigator than they would the police, as they don’t have to worry about being arrested or dragged into a complex investigation. And if a lead should turn up half way across the country, a private investigator can be on the first flight to interview the witness.
Ultimately, working with a private investigator gives you more control over the missing persons case, which can help you to weather those difficult months until the person is found. In addition to all this, private investigators may be able to provide support to your family. Often, they will be able to advise you on how to proceed, as well as answer any questions you might have.
Solving Your Missing Persons Case
Is it possible to find a missing person after 48 hours? The simple answer is yes. Thousands of missing persons have been found after the 48-hour window.
However, it is important that you recognize that there are many variable factors involved that may make the process more difficult. For instance, in the case of Amanda Berry, all three women were kept locked indoors for nearly a decade. This means that the police officers had very little floating evidence to work with. There were no sightings, no online activity, no residual DNA – absolutely nothing to go off of. It was as if they dropped off the face of the earth for ten years (and, in many ways, they did).
Cases like these are – fortunately – rare, though. In most situations, private investigators can use other tools to track down possible leads. For instance, a PI may be able to pinpoint the location of a missing person using digital footprints left behind on social media and forums – particularly in situations where the missing person is a runaway teen.
A person’s credit card activity may also offer some information as to his or her location. Private investigators can monitor suspects and take pictures, using this information to assist the police in their search. Using these methods, private investigators have been able to find people that were missing for over a decade.
What You Can Do
Beyond the efforts of the law enforcement and a private detective, there are things that you can do to help find a missing person.
As an example, during the first couple of weeks, continue to keep in contact with the missing person’s friends and family members. Sometimes, these people may remember little details weeks after the event that may be useful in solving the case.
You may also want to consider sharing the contact information of the police (and possibly your private investigator) with other people. In some situations, people with helpful information may hold back on sharing it if it’s something they would rather you did not know (as in the case of a missing teenager who was having a relationship with a married man).
As the weeks go by, it may become harder for you to remember certain details. To prevent against this, consider keeping a diary. You can use this to record any new information you gather, any people you speak to and the details that are clearest in your memory. Above all, never lose faith. The anguish of losing a loved one is unimaginable. But as long as you keep believing, there is always hope.