What To Do If A Loved
One Goes Missing
Free PDF Download of a checklist of items to share with Law Enfourcement--->
According to National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), over 600,000 individuals go missing in the United States every year. Fortunately, many missing children and adults are quickly found, alive and well. However, tens of thousands of individuals remain missing for more than one year – what many agencies consider “cold cases”.
It is estimated that 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year, with approximately 1,000 of those bodies remaining unidentified after one year.
What is NamUS?
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a national information clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases across the United States.
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There are countless variables when it comes to each missing person, no two cases are alike. The process, however, has similarities that can be instrumental in finding a missing loved one. It is common for people to think you need to wait 24 hours to report someone missing,
First, determine if your loved one is missing. Is their new lack of communication, no texts, social media posts, contact to friends, is this behavior odd? Have they done anything like this before, threatened to leave or harm themselves? Though answering yes to any of these questions does not mean they are not a missing person, but may have run away, or left willingly, this should be considered when reporting.
When answering NO to these questions, then you should absolutely eliminate all possibilities and look for any evidence that corroborates your suspicions and increases your chances of getting help from the police early on.
Important tip: Write everything down, dates, times, who you speak too, phone calls you have made etc. This will help keep you organized as your likely to not remember during this high stress situation.
Checking the phone location, known locations, their home, job, hospitals, vehicle location etc. can determine if something is off. If they live in a different state, ask family, friends, or police to do a wellness check, this is sometimes the easiest way to determine if they are home and in need of help.
Note: If you are checking the home, or find the vehicle, phone, or other belongings etc. and something seems out of place, (especially if it shows signs of forced entry, do not enter) you must contact police and do not touch or compromise anything that could be evidence. If you did touch or find something, write it down or record/take photos.
Once you have determined reasons that lead you to believe the person is missing, file a report with police and make sure you have everything written down as to how you came to this determination, as well as a full physical description of the person as detailed as possible with unique traits like tattoos or scars, a list of friend, family and enemies they may have. The more you have, the more likely the police will not hesitate to get involved, you are your missing loved one’s advocate.
When speaking to police, be 100% honest, if you are not sure about something, say so. Do not be quick to make accusations as it is not based on evidence or fact, let them determine if there is foul play.
Use social media as a tool, it is the fastest way to spread the word, create a Facebook page (I do not recommend a group as it has more rules and need to invite people, a public "page" is easier). Once you create a page adding photos and info, share it with all your Facebook friends and ask them to share, share, share! If you know how to use Twitter, TikTok, Instagram etc., then spread the word there too, keep them updated as necessary but do not offer too much info that will impede the investigation, always consult the agent/officer helping you before posting certain information.
Tip: You may be too mentally drained and stressed to maintain a page, appoint a savvy family member, or close friend to help with social media.
When it comes to media coverage, it can be beneficial, but it can also lead to unexpected attention for you or other family members. You need to set guidelines and boundaries on when and where interviews will occur. Not all interview requests should be accepted and not every question asked should be answered. You may choose to select one individual journalist/reporter who is best suitable to tell the story of your missing loved one, just be careful and do not over share.
People will offer to help, take it where it is needed. Do not try to do everything yourself and set boundaries if things get out of hand, if you need space, do not be afraid to ask for it. There is so much that goes into this process with each case being unique and different, just focus on maintaining a good relationship with law enforcement and doing whatever you can to keep the public looking for your loved one while taking care of yourself and family.
There is so much more to consider, but be open to receiving help, keep an open line of communication with Law Enforcement, keep a log of everything, and do not forget to take care of yourself and families mental health and well-being throughout the process.