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Thread: Law Enforcement Expert Needed re: Procedures for Missing Persons/Runaways

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Saribelle's Avatar
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    Law Enforcement Expert Needed re: Procedures for Missing Persons/Runaways

    Hi all! I'm looking for some information on how missing persons cases work. I have found a lot of details about how to report someone missing and helpful information to aid law enforcement, but not much about the cases themselves are handled within the agency.

    First - would the missing person be reported to the local police or to a state bureau? For context, there is no apparent foul play, and the person appears to have just run away from home.

    Now, the eighteen year old girl has been reported missing by her family. Does her mother then have the right to request that the case be closed if the girl makes contact? What if her minor brother then reports that she is still missing? Would the case be reopened?

    Also, could a third person - claiming to be her friend - go into the police station and request information? Would they be able to tell her the case had been closed?

    Thank you in advance!

  2. #2
    "Assume Good Intentions" SuperModerator Williebee's Avatar
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    Some of this will have to do with the "where" -- Where the case was filed, where the third person is asking the question. -- For example, in the US, a case filed in a small town, report filed about a person in that town/county, third person wandering into the sheriff's office or police station where the person behind the counter knows all parties involved, the third person may get all the details.

    Of course they might get them down at the local McDonalds, too. But the person behind the counter (a dispatcher or deputy) might say something like, "There is no ongoing or open case involving a person a named 'Jane Smith.' You might swing by her house, or over to the "Jones" funeral home for more information."

    So where are we talking about, and when? You might get a more specific answer. If you are living in the "where" you might want to wander into the local police station or sheriff's office and ask them. Tell them what you're up to. Often a deputy or clerk, at a slow time of the day, will be willing to give you all the detail you need and more.

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  3. #3
    Tom Swiftly's Favorite Adverb The Grift's Avatar
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    If she's 18 and there's no evidence of foul play or kidnapping, and it looks like she just ran away, nothing is going to be done. She's allowed to leave home at 18 and she doesn't have to tell anyone. At that age it's not running away, it's moving out.

  4. #4
    "Assume Good Intentions" SuperModerator Williebee's Avatar
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    True, there is the question of "missing" vs. "running away." If the reporting party said she "ran away" there would most likely be nothing filed. But "missing" -- then there could well be a report and a BOLO put out. (Be On The Lookout) -- especially in a rural area.

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  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW
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    Good points from WilleBee and the Grift... A lot will depend upon what you feel your story needs.

    As suggested, location (jurisdiction) is critical. Start your research with that and all will fall into place once you contact the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the agency with primary jurisdiction. That's the sort of basic information regarding making such a report they want the public to know.

    Generally speaking, in the case of a missing juvenile (or an adult with diminished capacity or serious medical issues) a case is immediately opened and BOLOs/Amber Alerts issued. NCIC is typically notified as well (thus communication with other LE agencies is established on a regional/nation level). Investigators are dispatched and the search ensues. The case is closed when the subject is found.

    In the case of a (presumed) normal adult reported missing, an initial report may be taken; however, absent evidence of foul play many jurisdictions may have a 24-48 hour waiting period before an investigation commences (another reason to know the jurisdiction).

    Anyone with first-hand knowledge can report someone as missing, but details of the circumstances will dictate how the LE agency will respond. Cases are generally only closed when the subject - or their remains - are found. The initial complainant might withdraw their assertion, but that doesn't assure the case will be closed.

  6. #6
    procrastinatrix Kitti's Avatar
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    Now, the eighteen year old girl has been reported missing by her family. Does her mother then have the right to request that the case be closed if the girl makes contact?
    Not quite the same situation, but my mom once freaked out that she hadn't heard from me for a couple of days and asked the local (county) police to do a "domestic welfare check" on me. I returned one of her phone calls before the cops came knocking, so she called them right back and cancelled the check, no problem.

    I would expect, from the way you're describing the situation, the more important thing would be that the missing girl proves she's not missing to the cops, not the mom. Doesn't matter if the mom knows where legally-adult daughter is, so long as the cops have proof she's not missing (i.e. she's contacted them directly).

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Saribelle's Avatar
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    Great, thanks for all the advice guys!

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