What do you do if a family member goes missing?

Ron Craig

If you are faced with a situation in which someone in your family becomes missing, you should remain calm and think clearly about what you need to do. There are many factors that need to be considered in such situations – the age, physical and mental conditions of the missing person is of utmost importance.
For example, if the person is elderly and has a condition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or if it is a child too young to recognize dangerous situations, the issue is likely to be an emergency situation that needs immediate involvement of law enforcement personnel.
If the missing person takes medication that is vital to his or her physical or mental well-being, this factor makes finding the person soon even more important.
Another factor to be considered is time of day. If there are only a few hours of daylight left, the situation becomes more serious. If the weather is inclement, such as rainy or cold, this also makes the situation more imperative for quickly involving the proper authorities.
There is no shame in calling police when a family member goes missing, regardless of the reasons involved. If you have had a disagreement with that person, finding him or her soon is no less important.
Regardless of the factors that may be involved in the situation, remember that the sooner you get more people involved, the higher the likelihood the person will be found quickly and, hopefully, before the missing person gets hurt.
Calling friends of the missing person to see if they have seen him or her is important. Remember to tell them to call you if the person is seen, and make sure they have a good phone number at which to call you back.
You should check to see if there are any clues as to which direction the person may have headed. While the person can easily change direction, knowing the way the person may have initially headed can be important.
Also, law enforcement will need an accurate description of the missing person, including height, weight, hair and eye colors, and a description of the clothing the missing person was wearing, if known. Be prepared to give this information to the dispatcher when you call 9-1-1 to give the initial report.
If the person who has gone missing drives, having a good description of any vehicles in which he or she may have left is important, as is a license plate number. If the situation involves a child, is there a bicycle that could have been used?
If law enforcement personnel get involved in the situation, be sure to give them as much pertinent information as you can, as soon as you can. In most cases, the senior officer will usually talk to a parent of a child or some other relative of an older person while other officers start searching the area.
No matter how much time has passed since the person has gone missing, never give up hope. Although it’s rare, there have been many cases in which both children and adults have been missing for years and were found.
If you have an opportunity to complete a fingerprint kit for your children or adults who may be prone to wandering, do it. The best of these kits includes DNA collection capabilities.
If you have the opportunity, you may also complete “videoprinting” of such persons. Videoprinting is the electronic capturing of both video and audio of a person who may go missing.
If such a person is abducted, the abductor can color the person’s hair or cut it and in other ways change the person’s looks, but they cannot change the voice. Someone may recognize the voice and report the whereabouts of the missing person.
This article is a public service from the Community Policing and Crime Prevention Division of the Lake Township Police Department. Township residents may obtain further information on crime prevention and public safety topics by contacting Ron Craig, crime prevention specialist/community policing officer, at 419-481-6354.


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