Kidnappings Don’t Just Occur on the Silver Screen
Lest you think that missing person cases only happen on television and in the movies, consider that the U.S. Federal Government has issued statistics showing that roughly 2,300 persons go missing every day in this country. Only a small number of those are adults, so the vast majority of missing persons are comprised of individuals under the age of eighteen.
Of the 2,300, about half are runaways and about one-fourth are parental abductions in which a custody dispute was involved. A relatively tiny percentage of all missing persons are young children kidnapped in the traditional sense by a stranger, but these cases and all other abductions should be handled according to known protocols that yield the greatest likelihood of a successful return.
This discussion will enumerate some of the steps involved in that protocol, and hopefully serve as a guide for the handling of such cases. It will conclude with some facts about why using a private investigator in kidnapping cases can be beneficial, and can add value that cannot be supplied by traditional law enforcement agencies.
1. Obtain an initial report of the incident from a parent or guardian, as well as basic and detailed facts about the missing person, including description, hobbies, social media accounts, etc.
2. Conduct an investigation of the missing person’s room (with permission) and of the abduction scene, if known. At this time, or when legally feasible, seal off the victim’s room to ensure that fingerprints are not disturbed, and determine if any objects are missing from the room. Ascertain whether or not the victim owned a cellphone or other electronic device.
3. Canvass the neighborhood using a standard set of questions to find any information that may have bearing on the abduction.
4. Search through crime records for any related incidents in the same or nearby areas, and search for prior incidents involving this same person. Include a search for sexual predators who may be living in the area.
5. Using all available media, broadcast information and photo of the missing person, especially his/her appearance at the time of disappearance.
6. Activate AMBER protocols (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) and work with the media to evaluate all responses from viewers and listeners.
7. If the abduction location is known, review all security camera footage in the vicinity for any sign of the crime.
8. Interview family members, friends, and relatives for their input about when they last saw the person, what might have happened, and their knowledge of the missing person. Obtain a thumbnail sketch about family dynamics, and whether they could have had any role in the disappearance.
9. Enter relevant information about the missing person into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, as well as any facts known about the abductor, as soon as possible after the event.
10. Prepare a flyer identifying the missing person and any relevant facts, and distribute as quickly as practicable to all surrounding areas.
11. Conduct a criminal history investigation on any person regarded as a suspect or person of interest.
12. Setup a tip hotline that may be dialed directly by persons with information on the case, then establish a prioritization scheme for incoming calls, ordered from most promising to least promising.
How a private investigator can help
Private investigators can do things in missing person cases that ordinary law enforcement agencies and authorities simply cannot match. A private investigator is not bound to the shifts that policemen are, and weekends are not off-limits like they might be for some organizations. P.I.’s will often put in long hours of surveillance work that law officers would not be authorized for, and they are frequently more motivated than officers putting in an 8-hour shift, because a P.I. relies on results to drive business and his/her reputation.
They are also not constrained by geographic boundaries as law enforcement agencies might be, since they are not bound by any jurisdictional considerations. The investigation for a P.I. might well lead out-of-town, which is part of the job, but policemen are not free to follow a case wherever it might lead.
In short, private investigators simply have much greater freedom to conduct a thorough search for an abducted person.