The National Crime Information Center reports that were 542,587 missing person cases in the United States in 2020. Over 71% of these cases were for people under the age of 21. While this number is concerning, it’s also the lowest number of missing cases since 1990. Typically, there are over 600,000 cases filed per year.
People go missing for a multitude of reasons. While we might immediately think of kidnapping, particularly in the case of minors disappearing, this is because of the disproportionate amount of coverage the media gives child kidnapping cases. Custodial-motivated abductions happen, but they are rare. Most missing person cases are resolved quickly, particularly if a private investigator is hired.
Sometimes, people purposefully go missing. Some children run away from home, and adults can attempt to avoid paying child support or alimony. Others hide from arrest warrants and court summons or are fleeing from a life of drugs, crime, or abuse.
Law enforcement strained
While most missing person cases are quickly resolved, law enforcement rarely has the resources to prioritize missing person cases. Time is of the essence for locating a missing person, and police agencies only have so much human resources to go around. This manpower goes to crimes that are deemed more pressing, particularly when equipment, training, and funds are contingent on getting results in areas like drug crime.
You can file a missing person report with the CUE Center for Missing Persons and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. This is a centralized system for police, coroners, and families to coordinate their search for a missing person. But for the maximum chance of finding a missing person alive, hiring a private investigator is a requirement.
Why hire a private investigator?
One of the most important reasons to hire a private investigation service when you need to find a missing person is that you will have professionals spending all their time and effort on your case. You get immediate, effective assistance, instead of simply waiting and hoping.
Private investigators not only perform their own research, but they can act as a liaison between you and the police. Private investigators can often get more information from the police while assisting them in their investigations, keeping you informed on progress.
For the police, once a missing person case goes “cold”, they will stop actively searching for the person. Private investigators will use a range of skills, techniques, software, and equipment to find a missing person, even if they have been missing for years.
The private investigator will typically start by collecting as much information on the missing person as possible. Name, date of birth, prior addresses, appearance, and distinguishing features are all important to know. If you have other identification such as employee IDs or driver’s license numbers, this can speed up investigations.
Depending on the case and with your permission, the private investigator will contact family members, friends, classmates, co-workers, and neighbors to get an idea of where and when the missing person was last seen.
The private investigator may check local hospitals, clinics, prisons, jails, or any local business the missing person is known to have gone to.
If you have access to the missing person’s financial and social media accounts, these can be useful in locating them.
With your permission, the private investigator may get the media involved to quickly help create awareness of the missing person case over a wider geographical area.
Private investigators use a range of tools on a day-to-day basis to speed up investigations. These include:
- Case management
- Background checks
- Public record searches
- Mobile phone tracking
- Computer forensic tools to access information on missing persons’ computers
- Facial recognition
- Genealogy searches
- Network monitoring
Private investigators use software to find people quickly and keep track of the case as it develops. They can easily and quickly search phone records, public records, social security numbers, and property listings. Some of these tools require certification or licenses so they aren’t available to the public.
All types of activities can trigger updates to credit records or updates to online records, and the private investigator can use this information to quickly find a missing person.