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A prompt response, as well as, identifying key evidence and witnesses is the most important steps to investigating a missing person report. An investigator must be able to determine if the circumstances indicate the missing person is voluntarily missing, has disappeared under unusual circumstances, or may be the victim of a crime. Special emphasis must be placed on a “high risk” missing person.
An example of a “high risk” missing person is a tender age child (under 13), elderly person, and/or disabled person. Also a person who is missing under circumstances indicating their physical safety may be in danger would qualify. These types of investigations sometimes require massive amounts of police resources. It is important to note that once evidence and/or witnesses are overlooked in a missing person investigation that the case could be irreversibly damaged. That is why this type of investigation has to be conducted properly the first time. A pitfall in these types of investigations is complacency.
It is well known that the vast majority of missing persons return or are located. This fact can lead the public and investigators to “wait and see”, as oppose to, attacking the event immediately. Investigators must keep in mind the relationship between unidentified deceased persons and missing persons when conducting these types of investigations because today’s missing could be tomorrow’s death investigation. Knowledge and use of national missing person databases like NamUs (national missing and unidentified persons system) and NECMEC (national center for missing and exploited children) are also investigative tools.
The most important part is contacting the police as soon as it is suspected that a person is missing. The public should know that there is NO time limit to report a missing person. As covered above, prompt reporting and response is one of the most important steps. Have contemporary photographs on hand for your loved ones because the police will require them. Pay special attention to elderly persons with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or any other mental/physical condition. We recently had a few missing endangered seniors that have been successfully resolved, but they are very time and labor intensive investigations.
To report a missing loved one, please call your local law enforcement agency as soon as possible. Any further questions, please contact the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Investigations Unit (708) 865-4700.