Realizing someone you love is missing is never an easy situation, but taking the right steps at the beginning of a missing person investigation can make all the difference. We’ll review what information you need ready to give investigators. We’ll also offer some suggestions for working with police and a private investigator.
Note the Details
Before you seek help from law enforcement, make sure you have all pertinent information ready. Take note of as many potentially relevant details as possible. The more detail you can offer police, detectives, and private investigators down the line, the better. Basic details include things like the clothes the person was last wearing, in addition to jewelry, hairstyle and color, height and weight, and other defining details. If you live with the missing individual, take note of any missing items. Did they take their wallet or purse with them? Is their car still in the driveway? Look for signs they might have packed for a trip or clear signs to the contrary. Medication, devices, chargers, and ID usually aren’t intentionally left behind.
Although it’s important not to jump to any conclusions before the authorities have a chance to thoroughly investigate, make sure you’re ready to share details about the missing person’s life. Do you know if they have a significant other? Is that significant other local? Be ready to answer questions about the individual’s work and leisure habits. If you know where the person goes for retreats or other individuals they may turn to if they’re in danger, list as much information about those locations and people as possible. Contact information is a good place to start.
Note your own interactions with the missing person. When did you last see them? Is there a reason they may be avoiding you, such as an argument, embarrassing incident, etc.? It’s better to be a little uncomfortable yourself than to leave out a detail that may help investigators find your missing loved one.
Contact the Police
It’s a good idea to write down all the details from the previous point because it’s easy to get flustered in an interview. Details about the person’s appearance and last known location are among the most important, and having a backup copy to give investigators if you get flustered can help. Armed with these details, make a report with your local police.
Be ready to answer questions and potentially conduct an interview. Keep in mind that police can’t begin looking for an official missing person (other than a child, usually) until a certain period of time has elapsed. This is a matter of practicality and resource management. That doesn’t mean you can’t report concerns, especially if you have any reason to believe the individual might be in danger. That early report may help police leap into action faster once they are able.
Make sure police have your contact information. This is a common procedure, but try to give them as much information as possible. If you have multiple phone numbers, such as work or a cell, make sure they’re listed. The easier the police can get in contact with you, the faster the case may progress.
Consider a Private Investigator
Hiring a private investigator isn’t always a step you should take after a failed police investigation. They actually work extremely well with police and compliment the measures of law enforcement to find your missing person. A private investigator has much more freedom than police. Although you should always make an official report to local law enforcement if you’re concerned an individual is in danger, you may get help from a PI before police can assist. Make sure the private investigator knows about all interactions with the police. This will help them follow leads and cooperate with authorities more efficiently.
A private investigator’s early start is especially important if you want steps taken as soon as possible. Keep in mind, a PI will need all the same details you gave the police. You may be able to give them valuable leads, and with luck, they may be able to solve your missing person case before the person even officially becomes missing under the law. Even if things do not conclude that quickly, the early start private investigators enjoy allows them to collect critical, time-sensitive leads and evidence police can utilize later.
An ongoing missing person case is always frustrating. You may remember additional information or come across new evidence in your day to day life. This could be a bill in the mail for the missing person, changes in a joint checking or savings account, or other minute details that could give police and your private investigator a critical hint to the individual’s whereabouts. Make sure you have the contact information for relevant police officers and your private investigator on hand so you’re prepared to report any new evidence.
Preparation and partnership are important in these cases. To find a missing person quickly, be ready with all relevant information available to you. Work with both police and a private investigator to move quickly and collect leads. Most importantly, stay vigilant and keep lines of communication open.