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Should you look for a missing person yourself?

There are a lot of steps you have to make when you report a loved one missing.  You have to call the police, let family and friends know, gather up photos and information.  You might even have to go as far as calling local shelters or hospitals, but should you physically go search for your missing loved one?

There is a level of importance for some police departments when it comes to missing people.  They may not come right out and say it and I am not going to point out any specifically as it is case to case, but usually children receive the highest level of importance and the fastest response from the police.  I say usually, because sometimes they are not.  Relisha Rudd, 8, went missing from Prince George and there was a delay by Metropolitan Police Chief Kathy Lanier on getting the word out.  Lanier blamed it on the other local states but it was found they never received a request.  The mayor asked for an investigation on the issue and it came out that the Metropolitan police did drop the ball and needed training on how they handle missing cases.  No one was fired.   Rudd is still missing.

In most states even if there is no Amber Alert activated, which is frustrating for many as it has such a stiff criteria to qualify its use, police, search and rescue and volunteers come out in droves to search for a child.  It is when a child is thought to be a runaway that little is done.  That age usually starts as early as 12.

Tara and Dawson Dean on a search – photo by JDean

With adults, if there is no foul play suspected then there seems to be no rush to search, and paperwork is done before anyone physically goes looking, although the NCIC database is a useful tool as it is seen by all law enforcement and entering name into the database is top priorty.

Another level of missing is endangered which is seniors or those with disabilities.  Sometimes there is some urgency, but it is far below a missing child under 12.  When time is of the essence, it doesn’t mean authorities abide by it.

Photo by JDean

So, with that, if your 79-year-old mother with memory issues goes missing, should you search for her on your own?  If your 22-year-old daughter goes to a party and does not return should you search for her on your own?   If your 40-year-old father doesn’t make it home from work, should you search for him on your own?

Most would say no and just wait for the police to track them down, but some families were not able to sit and wait and took it upon themselves to search.  Especially because they couldn’t understand why the police were not out there immediately searching.

Troy King went looking for his 22-year-old daughter, Heather when she didn’t come home from a party.  He reported his daughter missing to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s office over the phone and waited.  Troy said nothing happened, he saw no one physically looking for her.  Charlotte County Sheriff’s office said they were putting the information into the database and pinging her phone, and looking to see if she used a credit card.  Troy waiting three days and then decided to search for her himself.  It took him 15 minutes to find her at the edge of the woods deceased.

In Santa Clarita, Calif., Sean, Chardonnay and Lisa were missing their father, David Lavaue, 67,  after he didn’t return home from work.  They waited for the police to search but they were not able to find him.  Frustrated they went to the police station and a detective gave them the cellphone tower pings and debit card purchases of where their father was last seen.  They literally walked alongside the freeway on the route he would have taken home after they narrowed it down to a specific area with the information the detective gave them.  As they walked, they yelled his name and imagine their surprise when he answered.  Lavaue had gone off the road and down a ravine and was trapped at the bottom in his car.  If his kids had not physically gone to look for him, he probably would not have survived.  Even more evidence he likely would have died comes from where his car landed.  Right next to another car that held the remains of missing Melvin Gelfand, 88, that also went off the side of the road and down the ravine, a year earlier.

In November 2014, Rosa Levy, 88, from Buenos Aires, Argentina went missing after her flight was delayed in New York.  Maryann Ford, decided to search for Rosa after seeing the family’s plea for help in finding her on social media.  Hours later Ford found out Levy was given a voucher for a near by hotel by the airlines.  The police gave her advice to go to the hotel and talk with the employees.  Ford headed there and spots Levy coming down the hotel stairs.  Ford stuck with Levy till she got her back on the plane and heading to her family in Boston.  Could have Levy made it back to the airport on her own, we do not know, but you would probably be surprised of how many cases there are of seniors going missing from airports.  In August, Pasquale DeNora, 81, went missing from the JFK airport.  He was suppose to be escorted between flights but that did not happen.  He was found in Manhattan wandering the streets.  Victoria Kong, 83, went missing at the Ronald Reagan airport.  She was to be wheelchair escorted off the plane, but it did not happen.  Her body was found several days later in a wooded area near the airport.

But not all that have searched for their missing loved ones were able to find them.  Thomas Vera, 57, who was in the hospital with broken bones and a head injury went missing from the UCSD medical center in San Diego on a Monday in 2013.  The family stated no official search began till Thursday, after a video showed Vera heading to a nearby canyon.  Sadly, Vera was found dead five days later, even though the family did search for him and later found they were within 50 feet of where he was eventually found.

Many are confused with what they see on TV as they way the police search for a missing person, but there is no all points bulletin put out when a person goes missing.  Police do not drop what they are doing to jump in their car and look for your loved one.  That’s TV.  AND keep in mind, some cities don’t even have police officers trained in that specific area of the missing.  So, there guess is as good as yours where your loved one may be.

Should you go looking for a missing person yourself?

If my 84-year-old mother with memory loss were to go missing, would I go searching for her.  You bet I would.

I would start with the police to make sure the information was put on NCIC.  I would make sure the hospital and shelters were called.

I would launch a campaign on Facebook.  I would plan a meetup every morning at a specific location and ask for help from volunteers.  Throughout the day I would post updates, photos and videos of the search.

I would video tape my own interview of me searching for my mother and send it to the media, and have a copy on Facebook for the media to use.

I would establish a reward and hand out flyers and fax flyers to hospitals, media and homeless shelters.

I would talk with the homeless that have an underground system of communication.

I would check bus stops and trolley stations and even ride the trolley asking people if they had seen her.

If it was the weekend I would find out what events were going on and ask to get up on stage to announce my mother was missing.

If I had to I would hire someone to wear a huge billboard with her photo and stand at the busiest intersection for everyone driving by to see, while I continued the search.

The faster I am at doing all the above the better the chances she is found alive and well.   The police can’t do it alone and need you to help them search, and anyone else you can get to help you search.

But are there times when you should not look?  If your loved one goes missing in the wilderness, there is usually no lack of authorities that will be there to search.  They have years of experience in this area, plus training, that helps them navigate the wilderness.  Although you and maybe many other volunteer searchers may want to search, it is best done with with the cooperation and guidance of authorities, as volunteers may accidentally trample over clues or cause damage to private property or even hurt themselves.

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