No one should ever go through the anguish of a missing loved one. Sadly, it sometimes happens. The first few days after a person goes missing can be very traumatizing. At such points, families struggle with a mixture of fear, anguish, anger, and panic.
And yet, as hard as it may be, it is important that you take the right course of actions. Don’t let emotions cloud your judgment. The decisions that you make within the first 96 hours can have a huge bearing on how quickly your loved one is found. The steps required for filing a missing persons case varies slightly with different states. However, the following are some of the core steps that you must take – no matter where you live.
Before you contact the police, do a sweep of your area to make sure that the person is truly missing. False alarms happen all the time. Missing persons may sometimes turn up in the home of a family member. With any luck, yours will fit in that category.
Spend a few minutes doing a search around your home. Contact your friends, family members and neighbors to find out if they have spotted the missing person. The police will ask you if you have done all this when you contact them, so it is best to be able to reply in the affirmative.
Inform the Police
Contrary to public opinion, you are not required by law to wait 48 hours before reportinga missing person. You can (and should) inform the police as soon as you suspect that a person is missing. You may be able to do this by calling 911 or – even better – visiting the local station.
When you speak to a police officer, make sure that you are completely honest about the circumstances surrounding the person’s disappearance. If you have knowledge of any illicit activity that the person was involved in, make sure that the detectives know in order to improve your case’s outcome.
File a Report
When filing a missing persons report, try to provide as much information about the person as you can. The police office will want a description of what the person was wearing the last time you saw him or her. This includes shoes, clothing, hats and any other accessories that the person might have been wearing.
The missing persons report should also include a description of the person’s physical characteristics, including his or her skin tone, weight, height and eye color. If there are any discernible features – such as tattoos or scars – be sure to tell the police.
It also helps if you have a recent picture of the missing person. The best pictures are those that offer either a full-body shot or shots of the head and shoulders. Pictures can help police officers during their search and can be used for making flyers.
Finally, the police will want to know what the missing person was last seen doing and where this was. All of this information will go into your report in order to assist the law enforcement officers assigned to your case.
After Your Report is Filed
Once you have filed a report, the police will begin an investigation into the disappearance using the provided information. The circumstances will affect how the investigation is handled. If the missing person is an adult, the police will not bring them home, but call to inform you when they are found. In situations where the abduction of a child is confirmed, a Child Rescue (Amber) alert may be put out.
Some of the different actions that a police may take during the course of their investigation include:
- Searching around the area where the missing person was last sighted
- Checking the mobile records of the missing person’s phone
- Checking for captured footage on CCTV cameras
- Coordinating searches around the neighborhood
- Interviewing the missing person’s friends, neighbors and colleagues
- Checking the missing person’s web footprint
- Checking local hospitals for recent admissions
- Issuing a press release asking the public for assistance, as well as initiating media coverage
- Walking alongside with the local search and rescue team
In the best scenarios, the missing person will be found after a few days of searching. However, if this does not happen, do not back down. Keep the case number so that you can check in regularly to find out if any progress has been made.
If you plan to use flyers, make sure that it does not contain your personal address or contact information, as this may expose you to unnecessary risk. Post the flyers in public places where they will get the most viewing. Places like gas stores, churches, and bus stations are good choices.
Hiring a Private Investigator
It is vital that you inform the police about any missing person, as law enforcement agencies have a lot of different resources that they can put to use in your case. However, in addition to their efforts, you may also want to consider working with a private investigator. The benefit of hiring a PI is that it gives you a dedicated avenue for finding the missing person. A private investigator will also find it easier to travel beyond state borders to follow up on any leads that are uncovered.
There is also the fact that some people are more comfortable talking with private investigators than they are with police. This does not mean that a private investigator should replace the police. Quite the contrary. But combined with the resources of your local police department, hiring a private investigator will offer you a better chance of success.
How you go about filing a missing persons case is important. The information you provide will be put into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) where it can be accessed by other agencies across the country, so it is vital that you make your report as detailed and accurate as possible. After your police report is filed, do not let up. By staying active with your case, you increase your odds of ultimately locating your missing person.