1. #1
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    Question Question about Missing Persons Procedure

    Hello,

    I am a novelist writing my first book in the mystery genre. I had a question I was researching and I stumbled upon this great forum through a Google search. It has to do with the procedure surrounding a missing persons case.

    When a person disappears (an adult), what is the exact procedure that the police would follow? Is there a minimum amount of time a person must be missing before the police will assign a detective and begin a search? If there appears to be no crime, no foul play, and the person is not mentally ill, would the police ever refuse to waste their time and look at all? At what point would this become the work of a private investigator? Finally, what information would the missing person's next of kin or closest relative be required to provide aside from perhaps a picture and personal background?

    Thank you in advance for any light you could shine on this subject!

    -Paul

  2. #2
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    tactical208's Avatar
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    If your an adult and aren't metally ill or an extenuating circumstance then you can just get up and leave if you want and there is no crime or police report/missing person report. If fould play is suspected that is a different story. But if your an adult and no fould play then we aren't going to look for you.

  3. #3
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    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer did a multi-part series on missing persons that shows how the system works, and doesn't work. A lot can depend on how articulate the reporting party is and on the attitude of the officer taking the call.

    "Missing person" is a broad term. It covers runaways, disaster victims, missing hikers, crime victims, overdue travelers, people with dementia, and those who voluntarily walk away from their established lives and relationships. Some of these as law enforcement matters, some aren't.

    As for what information is needed, see this form and this form.

    FYI, the Salvation Army has a missing persons service.
    Last edited by Seventy2002; 07-07-2008 at 10:44 PM.

  4. #4
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    check your PM, too long to post.

  5. #5
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    At my old department....a big-city on the west coast....we went from 30 years ago, kissing off taking M/P reports, to taking any/all M/P reports and placing the M/P, and (if any) their car description in the national crime information center (NCIC) database, within four hours.

    In the case of an adult, that does not mean that a team rolls out and starts interviewing all neighbors and acquaintances. The report will sit in a file, a couple of calls might be made asking the reporting person, "Has he/she come home yet?"

    In the case of a child...non-parental abduction matter...more will be done, even the Feds may roll out after a few hours to start rattling cages/bushes.

    Most M/P's are voluntary missings. They ruin LE response attitudes, and tie-up resources, for those involuntary M/P's who need our full attention.
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    we dont do much for missing adults. definatley not looking for them . you know how many people want us to go find thier crackhead . not gonna happen.

  7. #7
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    Don't expect much, if anything, from the police. As stated, maybe a few phone calls. A number of years ago a kid from a near by college went missing for months--turned out he decided to blow off the quarter and go to Panama to chill out. Adults are free to come and go as they please.

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    Procedures regarding Missing Persons reports vary from agency to agency. Often, on TV dramas or in movies, you'll hear the cops tell the caller,"We can't even take a report until 24 hours have elapsed. That's B.S. Depending on the circumstances, police action can begin immediately. Here, I reference, elderly, infirm, infants, small children, any instance where foul play is reasonably suspected/indicated. As has been noted, it's not against the law to be "missing", In fact, it happens every day. For anyone of a variety of reasons, persons chose to simply disappear. Many homeless people are in this catagory. This is a nation where travel is fairly easy, and with few restrictions placed on it. People hitch hike, hop freight trains, and manage to be pretty mobile. They can do this with surprisingly little cash. So, to sum up, the procedures for handling to Missing Persons complaints/reports will vary pretty widely from department to department.

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    Thank you all so much for your replies!

    It seems as though a missing adult, unless there is very concrete evidence of foul play, will generally not be a very serious issue for the police. No crime is apparent, and therefore not a job for Law Enforcement. It seems unclear that if the missing person had an abusive spouse that this would be enough of a lead to follow. It seems like a busy, under-staffed or lazy police force could write it off. In this case, the plot of my story seems plausible. If a close friend goes missing under mysterious but not obvious circumstances, their best bet would be to hire a private investigator. It's a classic genre device, but I wanted it to be accurate to real-life.

    Thanks again. If you have anything else to add, any information is great!

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    pulicords's Avatar
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    I wouldn't categorize it the same way you have. Suspicious circumstances are all that's necessary to warrant a more thorough, exigent, investigation, not "concrete evidence of foul play." Many times criminal activity or life threatening situations have been discovered because the missing person disappeared under circumstances that were unusual considering their personal habits, living conditions or prior history.

    If a fifteen year old child with a history of running away from home fails to return at the proper hour that's one thing. If a 30 year old woman with a husband and three kids disappears for six hours when she just went to pick up pizza for the family dinner and has no history of such actions, it's another situation entirely. Context is everything when it comes to investigations, including missing persons' cases.
    "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."

  11. #11
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    In the first form that seventy2002 posted, what are the possible options for a disability that police would search for that person?

  12. #12
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    Typically, diseases of the mind; something that effect cognition. Missing a leg is not going to bump you up on the priority list.

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