Missing Persons: What to Do When a Loved One Vanishes

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. It’s your own hope turned to despair. When a friend or loved one goes missing, suddenly, nothing else in the world matters except finding them. But, what do you do? Where do you start?

Do A Quick Scan To Make Sure They’re Really Missing

Before you sound the alarm, make sure that the person isn’t just in the house being quiet. Or, if it’s your child, do a quick check of the home, the back yard, and the neighbor’s house. Maybe they’re at a friend’s house and forgot to tell you. If a basic and quick search turns up nothing, it’s time to step it up.

Report It To The Police

Call the local police department and report the person missing. Although they may encourage you to wait before filing a missing person’s report, there’s no waiting period required and police tend to be a little more conservative when it comes to opening up a report and doing a search. Many missing people are found within 48 hours, but if someone you know and love has gone missing, and it’s unusual for them to do so, do not wait. File ASAP.

Work With Authorities On AMBER Alert

The AMBER Alert System was established in 2003 to help quickly disseminate information about missing children. AMBER is “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response”. Originally inspired by the case of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas, police now use the system for a child 17 or younger who has been abducted. You’ll need to provide descriptions of your missing person and a recent photo.

Post On Social Media, But Be Careful

You can try posting on social media, but be careful. If the person has been abducted, and it’s someone you know, you may be alerting them of your search and measures you’re taking, which might give them a leg up on you.

Alert The Media

Alert the local media. The advantage of this over posting on social media is that the local media can overwhelm the city or even the state where you live with a fast distribution of information. And, they have influence that you may not have to start a county-wide or state-wide search.

Hire A PI

A private investigator might be appropriate if you suspect foul play or you want to keep the matter more private. This digital forensics expert, for example, could help you locate a missing person based on computer searches, cell phone records, and other electronic communication or traces of communication left by the victim.

If a person has been abducted, for example, it may be by someone they know personally and have been in recent contact with. Electronic records, like emails or text messages, might prove valuable, and traces of communication, IP, and possibly GPS location data can be obtained from an ISP or the person’s cell phone carrier.

Use The Missing Person’s Database

For some unfortunate cases, missing persons stay missing. If you’ve been at it for a while now, and you haven’t looked into the missing person’s database, do it. It may be your only hope.

Jared Stern is a well-known consultant on threat assessment and terrorism countermeasures. He also serves as the CEO and president of Prudential Associates, a leading risk management and force-protection company. His articles are available on many crime and forensic science websites. Follow Jared on Facebook.

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