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Author Topic: Missing Persons Waiting Period?
AliBaba
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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I long ago became inured to seeing or hearing the factiod that you have to wait 24/48 hours before filing a missing persons report repeated in books, movies and on television.

However, several years ago, I spoke with a police officer who at that time told me that this is nonsense. She said that anyone can file a missing persons report at any time, if the cause is there. Specifically, she sighted the example of children - she asked, would it be logical to make the parent of a child who hadn't shown up after school to wait 24 or 48 hours before police would take any action?

She went on to say that there is no separate rule for adults, that if someone has cause to believe that a person is missing, the police will take the report at any time.

Now, the reason I'm posting this is because in an article I just read in the Washington Post Magazine (link:Trail of Evidence)about 3 murders in the DC/Metro area, the author of the piece trotted out that cliche again:

quote:
He went to District police to file a missing persons report, and was given the brushoff: They hadn't been gone the requisite 48 hours

My question; am I crazy? Was the police woman I spoke to lying or mistaken? Does this vary from county to county? Is there any waiting period for filing a missing persons report, and if so, wouldn't that fly in the face of common sense? But if my understanding of the law is correct, why do people continue to repeat this cliche, especially in a non-fiction article like the one I mentioned?

Ali "you'll have to wait 24 hours before getting worried" Baba


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pinqy
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My guess is that the basic guidline is one of foul play versus just taking off. If I just took off, abandoned everything and became a hobo riding the rails, I wouldn't be "missing." If I blow off an appointment or don't visit the folks, then there's no real cause to think that I'm missing, it could be I just ran off. The police have no responsibility for that. That's why waiting periods for adults are usual...to determine if he is likely a victim or just ran off to Las Vegas for a few days. With children the cops will probably wait before doing anything formal if the child is just late coming home from school. Foul play, or goofing off? But because children's time is usually more strictly regulated and a child running off to Vegas is a different story than an adult, the cops will want to start the paperwork immediately.

For an adult, more leeway is given, unless the failure to appear is extremely unusual. If the person left home in the morning and failed to show up at work, the cops would probably start looking into that right away because it's unusual. Failure to come home after work though could be thoughtlessness. A missing person report is a lot of paperwork and requires manpower and the cops don't want to, and it's not reasonable to expect them to, look into every failure to show up by an adult without evidence that it's not just a person blowing things off.

pinqy

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rossdawg
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Did anybody hear about that couple in the news whose kid vanished like 20 years ago and they want their son declared dead so they can sue the guy they think did it? I heard about 2 seconds of it this morning on the news but it isn't on the internet anywhere.

My mother has a customer whose college age son disappeared in the late 70's and it took forever for anybody to consider him missing because he was college age in the 70's and the authorities just assumed he just bugged out or something. They have never seen or heard from him since.


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cowboysally
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quote:
Originally posted by rossdawg:
Did anybody hear about that couple in the news whose kid vanished like 20 years ago and they want their son declared dead so they can sue the guy they think did it? I heard about 2 seconds of it this morning on the news but it isn't on the internet anywhere.

Etan Patz. There was this
article in the NY Times yesterday. (Registration required.) Very sad.


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AliBaba
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
That's why waiting periods for adults are usual...to determine if he is likely a victim or just ran off to Las Vegas for a few days.

No, see that's exactly my point. The first thing the police officer(s) will do when you call or go in to file a missing persons report is to ask you questions to try to determine whether there is genuine cause for worry or if there is any possibility that the person in question took off, is just stuck in traffic, whatever.

My original point was that the idea of always having to wait any mandatory period is a Hollywood invention, at least according to the one police officer I spoke with.

It seems to me that under certain circumstances, it could be damn foolish to force someone to wait a day or two before doing any investigating, since that would allow the trail to get cold, an abductor or even murderer to leave the area, or the missing person to die, for example.

So, back to my original question; are there any law enforcement types here that can answer the question definitively - is there any kind of a mandatory waiting period for filing a missing persons report (leaving aside how many times we've heard this cliche repeated in movies, etc.)?

Ali "this is rapidly becoming my munchkin" Baba


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The perverted Scarlet Collector
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"she asked, would it be logical to make the parent of a child who hadn't shown up after school to wait 24 or 48 hours before police would take any action? "

Wha? What kind of person would file a MP report if their kid didnt show up after shool? Shouldnt they at least call the school to see if their kid is in detention or some activity? Maybe the kid went to a friends house and forgot to ask permission?
I'd say the police shouldnt bother filing a report unless the parent has done those things. Maybe wait at least 12 hours.


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The Cat In The Hat
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quote:
Originally posted by The perverted Scarlet Collector:
"she asked, would it be logical to make the parent of a child who hadn't shown up after school to wait 24 or 48 hours before police would take any action? "

Wha? What kind of person would file a MP report if their kid didnt show up after shool? Shouldnt they at least call the school to see if their kid is in detention or some activity? Maybe the kid went to a friends house and forgot to ask permission?
I'd say the police shouldnt bother filing a report unless the parent has done those things. Maybe wait at least 12 hours.


This rings a bell ... Aha!

quote:
This "missing child alert" began circulating on the Internet on 12 October 1999, a day after [Kelsey Brooke Jones] had been reported missing, then found, safe and sound, playing at a neighbor's house a few hours after her mother claimed she'd last seen her. No one knows what prompted the mother, Amy Wolkenhauer, to call the police instead of checking a few doors away to see if her little one was there or to ask whether the neighbors had seen her, but that is what happened.

According to Barbara's writeup, the cops found her by knocking on doors and asking if anyone had seen her. So, I tend to agree with you - not about the time limit, but that you should check the obvious places before getting hysterical.

This almost happened to me once. I was in high school, and I had gone out one evening with friends. I got home early (earlier than my mother, who had also gone out), walked the dogs, and turned in, all before my mom got home.

When she did get home, she started worrying because I "wasn't home yet". After working herself up into a lather, she was all set to call the police when she decided to check my room. There I was, asleep. She was inexplicably annoyed with me about this . She would have been a damn sight more annoyed (as would I) if the cops had found me, though.

The Cat In "where is she?" The Hat


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sceeva
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at the police department i work at, there is a 24 hour waiting period for taking a report on an adult, but a juvenile can be reported as soon as he/she is found to be missing. the person is then put ino N.C.I.C.(a computer database that stands for national crime information center and can be accesed for any police dept/sherrifs office/state police in the us). there are different categories for missing persons including: disabled (a perosn who would not likely to be able to take care of themselves), endangered (life endangered by kidnapper, or if the person is suicidal, or the condition of their dissapearance is unknown), involuntary (kidnapping), juvenile (anyone under 18, can be entered immediately) and catastrophe (hurricane, tornado, flooding).

if a person has been entered into the ncic system, their name will come up when checking to see if they are wanted, missing or checking the status on their drivers licence. when the person has been located, the recovering agency sends a teletype to the entering agency letting them know the person has been located.

the entering agency them removes the persons information from the database.

this is bascialy the same process for a wanted person.

now, youve all learned something this morning...

officer sceeva


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Kathy B
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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US Law
quote:
National Child Search Assistance Act 1990 (Title 42 U.S Code § 5780)
This Act requires each federal, state, local law enforcement agency to report each case of a missing child younger than the age of 18 to the NCIC. It further states that no agency is to maintain any policy establishing a waiting period before accepting a missing child report.

From the Chicago PD

quote:
How long must I wait to make a missing persons report?

There is no mandatory waiting period. Common sense should be your guide. Please keep in mind that even people who are regular in their habits can get stuck in traffic, caught in a long line at the supermarket, or they can run into an old friend on the way home from work. Circumstances like these can cause unexpected departures from normal schedules. Please allow for these kinds of circumstances before making a report.


Los Angeles PD

quote:
You may initiate a Missing Persons Report by contacting your local law enforcement agency. Contrary to popular belief, law enforcement agencies in California do not require a person to wait a specific period of time before reporting a missing person.

Pennsylvania law

quote:
Law enforcement agencies shall have the following duties with respect to missing children: (1) To investigate a report of a missing child immediately upon receipt of the report regardless of the age of the missing child or the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the child. In no case shall law enforcement agencies impose a mandatory waiting period prior to commencing the investigation of a missing child.

Hartfod Connecticut

quote:
The Policy of the Hartford Police Department is that there is no set time to wait before you report someone missing. Each missing person incident must be approached with a common sense look at the circumstances involved.

Hoover, Alabama

quote:
Despite what you may have seen on television, it is not necessary to wait twenty-four hours to report someone as "missing". Special situations and circumstances, such as a potentially serious medical condition, may heighten concerns about a friend or family member who cannot be contacted or located. Such circumstances should be conveyed to the Police Department when reporting a missing person.

I gave up after finding similar information on numerous web sites. I didn’t search for info outside of the US.

Edit--Here's what the DC police say

quote:
There is no time limit that you must wait to report a person as missing, whether he/she is considered missing or a runaway.
They go on to say that missing adults should be reported to the nearest precinct, but you can call 911 if it's urgent. (They have other procedures for missing children) So, either the reporter got it wrong or the police said something like "well, in this type of case, we usually take the report right away, but we wait 48 hours before beginning a full search." For children however, the DC site says the first 48 hoiurs are most cirtical.

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OhKen
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A "missing persons" tangent.....

I used to work part-time at a group home for retarded adults. Some time after I left that job I was heading for a play rehearsal in Center City Philadelphia when I saw one of the residents of one of the group homes, whom I knew had run away and had no business being downtown. I stopped and chatted with him, then called the police to report that someone with an active missing persons report had been found, and that they could pick him up at this intersection.

When the police car arrived, the officers asked me to accompany them to the station to explain the situation. Even though it was quite out of my way, I did so. When we got to the station they told me that I had to stay there until someone from the group home came to pick him up, and if I didn't stay then they would just let him go. Now remember, I no longer worked for the organization and had no legal standing as this man's guardian, but the police refused to make any effort to locate someone to come and get him. I ended up spending several hours and many quarters trying to locate someone from one of the group homes to come down and pick him up, and missed my rehearsal. Of course I later went on to play the role to rave reviews and standing ovations , so that was not a problem, but I couldn't believe the rigamarole the police put me through to do their job.

End of digression...........


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Liz P
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Several years ago, I had the experience of finding out that in Houston, Texas there is no waiting period for filing a missing persons report on an adult.

I had a friend who had been visiting from out of town. ON Sunday afternoon, I put her on a bus home. She was supposed to change buses along the route, and her husband would pick her up at a town near where they lived.

I watched her get on the bus myself at around 3:00 that afternoon. At 10:00 that night, her husband called. The bus she was supposed to be on had come and gone, and she wasn't on it. After discussing what might have happened with her husband, he told me he intended to call the Houston Police and report her missing. Less than an hour later, I received a call from an officer at the Police Department asking me for further information since I was the last person (technically speaking, after all, everyone on the bus saw her, too) to see her.

After asking several questions about her state of mind when she left my presence, and also about her appearance, what she was wearing, etc. I was asked to come in the next morning and fill out forms to be put into the computer (NCIC, I assume) to formalize the report. But they did say that in the meantime, they were going to start looking for her, and calling other police departments along the way and see if she could be located.

Fortunately for all involved, her husband called me back about 2 hours later and told me he'd found her. It turned out that the bus she'd gotten onto was the wrong one (even though I heard her ask the bus driver if this was the right bus and he said "yes"). What bothered her husband and I most about it was that they dropped her off in Downtown Waco, Texas at a CLOSED (for the night) bus station, where there were no outside phones, no place for her to contact her husband to let him know where she was and no good place for her to wait until someone picked her up!

I think that they went on to make a formal complaint to the bus company. And as a result, her husband no longer allows her to take the bus on trips.

Liz


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Don Gato
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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quote:
Originally posted by Liz P:
And as a result, her husband no longer allows her to take the bus on trips.
Liz

Wow, I hope you were joking. Otherwise, it sounds like your friend is married to a real sexist bastard.

Frank


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Alias Rex
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I had to file a missing person report on my mother, back in 1976. I tried to file a report when she was missing for 5 hours, but was told by the LAPD that I had to wait 24 hours. As it turned out, she was abducted at gunpoint, forced to drive to Arizona and murdered -- approximately 10 hours after I first tried to file the report. I can't help that think that if the police had issued an all-points-bulletin when I initially tried to file the report, there might have been a chance for a happy ending.
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dilbert
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quote:
Originally posted by fholloway:
Wow, I hope you were joking. Otherwise, it sounds like your friend is married to a real sexist bastard.

Frank


Duh.. I guess I'm a sexist bastard too. If my wife went through something like that with a bus company I would insist that she fly to her destinations regardless of cost difference. After all, someone has to be at the airport for the plane to come in, so they would generally help her try to get to where she needed to go, even if it meant calling a cab for her to go to a bigger city. Of course, I despise bus travel anyway, the cost savings doesn't justify the increased travel time to me.


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Aslan
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I am so sorry Alias Rex. That is terrible.
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Mike Rosenberger
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Just to add my 2 cents, agencies in California are required to take a missing persons report from anyone at any time, regardless of where the reporting party, or the missing person, was last seen or where they live. "Critical missings" which basically means, kids, people with medical/mental issues, and situations in which foul play is suspected must be entered into NCIC within 4 hours. BTW, I am a detective with a police department in LA County and this has been the rule since 1991.
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