A Missing Person
A missing person is a person who has disappeared and whose status as alive or dead cannot be confirmed as his or her location and fate are not known.
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Laws related to missing persons are often complex since, in many jurisdictions, relatives, and third parties may not deal with a person's assets until their death is considered proven by law and a formal death certificate issued.
The situation, uncertainties, and lack of closure or a funeral resulting when a person goes missing may be extremely painful with long-lasting effects on family and friends.
A person may go missing due to the accident, crime, death in a location where they cannot be found (such as at sea), or many other reasons, including voluntary disappearance. In some countries, missing persons' photographs are posted on bulletin boards, milk cartons, postcards, and websites, to publicize their description.
A child may go missing for several different reasons. When trying to understand how to find and protect missing children, it is important to analyze the causes and effects of a child's disappearance. While criminal abductions are often the most commonly publicized cases of missing children, it only represents between 2–5% of missing children in Europe. Many categories of missing children end up in the hands of traffickers forced into sexual or commercial exploitation and abuse.
A number of organizations seek to connect, share best practices, and disseminate information and images of missing children to improve the effectiveness of missing children investigations, including the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), as well as national centers, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in the US, Child Focus in Belgium, and The Smile of the Child in Greece.
Missing person’s reports are a popular story component on crime and legal shows but in real life, the situation is much more dramatic. By the time a missing person’s report is filed, tensions are often running high and that can mean important details are missed.
It doesn't help that TV and movies don't tell the whole story about how to file missing person’s reports. There are important things to consider that are often left out. And there are some details that just aren't true.
Knowing the facts before a crisis can be critical when things go wrong. Find out the important facts you need to know if you ever file a missing person’s report.
There is no waiting period. Many shows and movies have publicized the 24 or 48 hour waiting period to report missing people but that doesn't exist in real police offices. As soon as you know an adult or child is missing, report it to police.
Anyone can be a missing person. It's not just limited to children. Adults can be reported as missing too. If you suspect that someone you love can't be located and may need medical, legal, or other help, it's time to file a missing person’s report.
Bring the right information. Police need as complete a description as possible to locate a missing person. When filing a report bring one or more clear photographs, preferably from the shoulders up. Also, have a clear description of height, weight, age, and any identifying marks such as tattoos or birthmarks. Know what they were last seen wearing and who they were seen with before they went missing.
Give all the details. Police may do an expedited search depending on the factors involved. Very young children and people who are mentally or physically impaired or in need of medical attention are in more danger the longer they are missing. Those who were likely the victim of a crime or other foul play may also get particular attention from police. Once police have all the facts about a potential disappearance they will be better equipped to respond appropriately.
Know what to expect after they're found. Hopefully, the missing person will be found quickly and before any harm happens. If they turn up on their own, make sure to inform police to call off the search. If police find a missing adult whose actions were voluntary, they might not disclose where the person is unless the person gives permission. Filing a missing person report for an adult doesn't entitle you to know where they are, only that they are safe.
Getting help Outside Parties Involved
- Ask people to spread the word. Send out an email with a picture of the missing person and a request to pass the word around. Post a picture and description of the missing person on your social media pages and ask people to share. The more people who become aware that you're looking for a missing person, the better the chances of finding him or her.
- Alert the local media. Getting the media involved is another important way to publicize the fact that you're looking for a missing person. The person may see the announcement and decide to return home. Others will look out for the missing person as well. With media involved, local police may devote more resources to solving the case.
- Send photos and videos of the missing person to your local TV stations.
- Call your local newspapers, and ask them to publish an article on the missing person.
- Take out an ad in a weekly newspaper.
- Send information to local blogs and websites.
- Consider hiring a private investigator. A private investigator, unlike the police department, will spend as much time as you want to investigate your case. If you have the money, hiring an investigator is a good way to keep the search going when police are no longer spending as much time on it.
Private detectives and investigators search for information about legal, financial, and personal matters. They offer many services, such as verifying people’s backgrounds and statements, finding missing persons, and investigating computer crimes.
Duties of Private Detectives and Investigators
Private detectives and investigators typically do the following:
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- Interview people to gather information
- Search public or court records to uncover clues
- Conduct surveillance
- Collect evidence to present in court or to a client
- Verify employment and income
- Check for civil judgments and criminal history
- Investigate computer crimes and information theft
- Private detectives and investigators offer many services for individuals, attorneys, and businesses. Examples are performing background checks, investigating employees for possible theft from a company, proving or disproving infidelity in a divorce case, and helping to locate a missing person.
The characteristics you must look for in a missing person investigators are:
- Must have excellent oral and written communication skills
- Top-notch analytical and critical thinking skills
- Eye for detail.
- He or she must also possess a formal education as to best serve their clients. A formal education in criminal justice or a related field through an associate, bachelor, or master’s degree program, is a practical path to becoming a private investigator.
Private detectives and investigators use a variety of tools when researching the facts in a case. Much of their work is done with a computer, allowing them to obtain information such as telephone numbers, details about social networks, descriptions of online activities, and records of a person’s prior arrests. They make phone calls to verify facts and interview people when conducting a background investigation.
Investigators may go undercover to observe people and to obtain information.
Detectives also conduct surveillance when investigating a case. They may watch locations, such as a person’s home or office, often from a hidden position. Using cameras and binoculars, detectives gather information on people of interest.
Detectives and investigators must be mindful of the law when conducting investigations. Because they lack police authority, their work must be done with the same authority as a private citizen. As a result, they must have a good understanding of federal, state, and local laws, such as privacy laws, and other legal issues affecting their work. Otherwise, evidence they collect may not be useable in court and they could face prosecution.
The following are examples of types of private detectives and investigators:
Computer forensics investigators specialize in recovering, analyzing, and presenting information from computers to be used as evidence. Many focus on recovering deleted emails and documents.
Legal investigators help prepare criminal defenses, verify facts in civil lawsuits, locate witnesses, and serve legal documents. They often work for lawyers and law firms.
Corporate investigators conduct internal and external investigations for corporations. Internally, they may investigate drug use in the workplace or ensure that expense accounts are not abused. Externally, they may try to identify and stop criminal schemes, such as fraudulent billing by a supplier.
Financial investigators may be hired to collect financial information on individuals and companies attempting to make large financial transactions. These investigators are often certified public accountants (CPAs) who work closely with investment bankers and other accountants. Investigators might search for assets to recover damages awarded by a court in fraud and theft cases.
Missing person investigators are licensed private investigators or sworn law enforcement officers who use standard police methods and specialized training to search for and locate people who have disappeared. Investigators may confront a variety of cases, including runaway children, potential or actual victims of kidnapping or other violent crimes, and persons with mental disabilities who have become lost. Investigators use digital and physical surveillance techniques, specialized database software, and interpersonal skills to solve cases.
Hiring a private investigator
Going missing is not a crime in any country, so police cannot make every missing person a priority. Private investigators aren’t cheap, but when it is about your feeling to your beloved ones it is worthwhile any cost. Any important information uncovered by a private investigator should be shared with police.
If the immediate search is not successful, you may be tempted to try almost anything. Some parents turn to private detectives to aid in the search.
Consider hiring a private detective or investigator only if you are convinced that he or she can do something better or different than what is being done by law enforcement. Be certain that you are not simply wasting money that could be spent more productively in another way. If you decide to use a private detective, the following tips can help:
Always ask for and check references to find out if the investigator is legitimate.
Be wary of people who say they can bring your missing person back immediately for a specific sum of money. If you run into this situation, report it to law enforcement.
Make sure you are paying a reasonable rate. Insist that the investigator itemizes expenses.
Make sure the investigator or detective has experience working with law enforcement. Law enforcement must be notified immediately of any leads you receive from a private investigator.
Inform your assigned law enforcement investigator about your decision to hire a private investigator. In most instances, this individual will need to talk to law enforcement before becoming involved in the case.
Be prepared to encounter a few people who are fanatical or obsessive in their behavior or in their desire to help. Keep in mind that some people may try to use your loss to gain attention for themselves. Protect yourself from people who might be delusional or who may prey on victims through scams or by offering false hopes and expectations. The key is to keep your focus and exercise caution.
At the Wasser Agency, we offer investigators specialized in missing persons and we carry out investigations with professional tools and the best human resources. We are located in Miami Beach/South Beach, FL. Visit us now.