Missing persons investigations place a high demand on police resources. This is especially true when the missing person is at risk of harm. In addition, the investigation often requires a great deal of detective work.
This includes door-to-door enquiries and checking bank accounts, social media, and mobile devices. It also involves analyzing CCTV footage.
Identifying the missing person
One of the first steps in missing persons investigations is to identify the person. This is a very important step because it allows investigators to begin interviewing witnesses while their memory of the event is still fresh. In addition, it gives investigators a chance to collect physical evidence of the person’s location.
Missing persons investigations are complex and highly dependent on the context of the case. For example, an investigation of a missing child might focus on addressing the risk of harm to that person, while an investigation into a hiker who disappears in the wilderness may focus on identifying potential risks and evaluating resources available for search and rescue.
It is also important to ensure that family and carers are kept informed about the progress of the investigation. This may be difficult, especially when the police service employs a 24-hour shift system and there is no single officer to be responsible for a particular missing person investigation. This can lead to confusion and frustration for the family, so it is important that a nominated point of contact is identified with whom the police will agree on a timetable for shift changeovers.
Developing a profile of the missing person
When conducting missing persons investigations in humanitarian contexts (post-conflict, migration and OSV) it is necessary to collect as much information as possible about the status of each individual. This will include a number of different categories, including where they were last seen, where they went missing and what caused their disappearance. In addition, it is important to compile a list of missing and deceased individuals for the purpose of prioritizing search activities.
These profiles should be comprehensive, including a medical and physical profile (including sex, age, height), ethnicity, distinct facial features, morphological characteristics, genealogy descriptions, social history, nicknames, political aliases, and daily activities and habits. Ideally, the data should be electronically stored in the missing person case file.
The search for missing people is a complex process that demands the use of police resources. This is a particularly challenging task when there are many non-productive lines of inquiry. Nevertheless, the initial police response to a missing person report is an important factor in the success of the investigation. This can be achieved by using an evidence-based approach based on ACPO’s Interim Guidance on Missing Persons Management, Recording and Investigation (Bayliss and Quinton, 2013). This will reduce the time it takes to identify missing persons.
Developing a search strategy
One of the most important steps in missing persons identification is collecting and recording information. This includes medical and family information, lifestyle habits and relationships with other persons. It also helps reconstruct the circumstances of disappearance. This process can be difficult, especially in large-scale events such as disasters, ongoing or post-conflict situations of violence (OSV) and migration, where many individuals may disappear.
It is recommended that all gathered information be recorded in a log document to register the search and ensure transparency and accountability. It should also be easily accessible and up-to-date. Furthermore, the log can be copied to any desired databases and should be regularly reviewed. This way, any changes can be made quickly and efficiently.
Developing a search strategy is essential for any missing person investigation. This is because it will help in identifying any potential leads and information that can lead to the discovery of a missing person. It will also help in reducing the risk of harm or injury to the missing person’s family and friends. This is especially important for children who are missing, as they can be exposed to physical, emotional and social consequences of their disappearance.
Developing a search plan
Developing a search plan is an important step in finding a missing person. It should include all potential leads and information about the person. This will help investigators find the person quickly. It is also important to publicize the case, as this will increase the chances of finding the person. This can be done by posting a picture and description of the missing person on social media sites. It is also a good idea to alert the local media, as they may be able to provide more information about the situation.
The tendency to understand the Search as a body centred forensic response must be corrected and broadened, as it includes steps that eventually optimizes the chance of identification without physical access to bodies . The first step is the compilation of a unified list of missing persons centralized and consolidated among all entities involved in the process (institutions, agencies, relatives, NGOs etc.). This list should be updated as the investigation progresses and include information on the status of the persons reported (e.g. voluntary disappearance, change of identity).
Developing a timeline
In contexts of mass fatality events, such as migration, ongoing conflict and OSV, the identification of missing persons is often a complex task. It is also important to consider the role of international cooperation in such cases.
Forensic identification of missing people is essential for a number of reasons. It contributes to the resolution of other legal proceedings, provides crucial statistics, and satisfies the humanitarian needs of families who want to know what happened to their loved ones.
The identification process begins with a centralized and unified list of names. This is a key component of the investigation and should be updated regularly. It should also include information on the status and mobility of those who went missing.
The charity Missing People coordinates national or local targeted publicity on behalf of police forces to encourage people to report sightings. It also operates a 24-hour helpline that is free to call and can be reached in multiple languages. It can also arrange for confidential calls from family members. The charity can also offer support to families through a network of safeguarding organisations.