Article

Missing persons: The processes and challenges of police investigation

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Abstract

Responding to reports of missing persons represents one of the biggest demands on the resources of police organisations. In the UK, for example, it is estimated that over 300,000 missing persons incidents are recorded by the police each year which means that a person in the UK is recorded missing by the police approximately every two minutes. However, there is a complex web of behaviours that surround the phenomenon of missing persons which can make it difficult to establish whether someone's disappearance is ‘intentional’ or ‘unintentional’ or whether they might be at risk of harm from themselves or others. Drawing on a set of missing person case reconstructions and interviews with the officers involved with these cases, this paper provides insights into the different stages of the investigative process and some of the key influences which shape the trajectory of a missing person's investigation. In particular, it highlights the complex interplay between actions which are ‘ordered and conditioned’ by a procedural discourse around how missing persons investigations should be conducted, and the narratives that officers construct about how they approach investigations which are often shaped by a mix of police craft, ‘science’ and ‘reputational’ issues.

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... At least 20% of those reported missing are not found within 24 h, and require police intervention to be located, or their welfare (or otherwise) confirmed (Fyfe et al. 2015). Many police agencies are struggling to cope with the high demands that missing persons investigations create. ...
... Many police agencies are struggling to cope with the high demands that missing persons investigations create. In the UK, police will first carry out a risk assessment, and while there are actions to be undertaken in all missing persons cases, may deploy officers only in more high risk cases (Fyfe et al. 2015, College of Policing 2019, while in the United States, volunteer programmes have been established to help local police agencies tackle the increasing volume of missing persons cases (International Association of Chiefs of Police 2018). As calls about missing people continue to rise each year (National Crime Agency 2019), it is important that police and agencies in search of missing people apply evidence based techniques to make the best use of limited resources in a constrained environment (Crawford 2013, Garside et al. 2013. ...
... Others have considered how the appeal might have a negative impact on the behaviour, increase the risk posed, or create distress to the missing person (Holmes 2016). Nevertheless, in many cases (for example vulnerable missing persons unable to return home on their own) public appeals may be vital in locating them (Holmes 2016), and is often one of the most important parts of a missing persons enquiry for the police (Fyfe et al. 2015). One study, using a case-control design, suggests that having tweets posted by police departments can increase the chance of a missing person being found (Tsoi et al. 2018). ...
Article
Police agencies globally are seeing an increase in reports of people going missing. These people are often vulnerable, and their safe and early return is a key factor in preventing them from coming to serious harm. One approach to quickly find missing people is to disseminate appeals for information using social media. Yet despite the popularity of twitter-based missing person appeals, presently little is known about how to best construct these messages to ensure they are shared widely. This paper aims to build an evidence-base for understanding how police accounts tweet appeals for information about missing persons, and how the public engage with these tweets by sharing them. We analyse 1008 Tweets made by Greater Manchester Police between the period of 2011 and 2018 in order to investigate what features of the tweet, the twitter account, and the missing person are associated with levels of retweeting. We find that tweets with different choice of image, wording, sentiment, and hashtags vary in how much they are retweeted. Tweets that use custody images have lower retweets than Tweets with regular photos, while tweets asking the question ‘have you seen … ?’ and asking explicitly to be retweeted have more engagement in the form of retweets. These results highlight the need for conscientious, evidence-based crafting of missing appeals, and pave the way for further research into the causal mechanisms behind what affects engagement, to develop guidance for police forces worldwide.
... This article explores the experiences of missing adults with mental health issues who go missing through secondary analysis of interviews conducted between 2011 and 2013 by the Geographies of Missing People research project team (Fyfe, Stevenson, & Woolnough, 2014;Parr & Fyfe, 2012;Stevenson et al., 2013 inter alia). The research team conducted in-depth interviews with 45 formerly missing adults, contacted through police forces in Scotland and the south of England. ...
... ] is there an immediate threat she's going to commit self-harm?'' This echoes Fyfe et al. (2014) who, through the use of three case reconstructions, highlight the primacy of concerns about possible suicide in informing the police search (Fyfe et al., 2014). ...
... ] is there an immediate threat she's going to commit self-harm?'' This echoes Fyfe et al. (2014) who, through the use of three case reconstructions, highlight the primacy of concerns about possible suicide in informing the police search (Fyfe et al., 2014). ...
Article
“It's not waiting to be found, not missing, not lost or anything like that—just not wanting to be found for a while” [Formerly missing woman]. When an adult goes missing, there is often an underlying reason; save for a small number of misunderstandings, missing incidents tend to be indicative of difficulties in the missing person's life. Mental health is inextricably linked with missing; as many as 80% of missing people are thought to have a mental health issue (Holmes, 2014b). Using data collected by the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Geographies of Missing People project, this article explores this link, through secondary analysis of interviews with returned missing adults and with police officers, to shine a light on the key themes that emerged. Furthermore, the article argues that the response to returning missing adults in the United Kingdom is inadequate, meaning that potentially vulnerable adults are left without the assessment and support they need to maintain their mental well-being and to prevent future missing incidents. This article contributes to existing knowledge about the links between mental health and missing and makes a number of suggestions for improvements in cross-sector policy and practice.
... At least 20% of those reported missing are not found within 24 hours, and require police intervention to be located, or their welfare (or otherwise) confirmed (Fyfe, Stevenson, and Woolnough 2015). Many police agencies are struggling to cope with the high demands that missing persons investigations create. ...
... Many police agencies are struggling to cope with the high demands that missing persons investigations create. In the UK, police are no longer required to respond to cases assessed as low-risk (Fyfe, Stevenson, and Woolnough 2015), while in the United States, volunteer programmes have been established to help local police agencies tackle the increasing volume of missing persons cases (Chiefs of Police 2018). As the number of missing people continues to rise each year (National Crime Agency 2019), it is important that police and agencies in search of missing people apply evidence based techniques to make the best use of limited resources in a constrained environment (Crawford 2013;Garside, Silvestri, and Mills 2013). ...
... A missing person appeal is "communication by those searching for the missing person to a wider network of people who may be able to help locate that person and to the missing person directly" (Holmes 2016, 20). While a media appeal can be regarded by the police as 'being seen to be doing something', it can actually be one of the most important parts of a missing persons enquiry for the police (Fyfe, Stevenson, and Woolnough 2015). If these appeals reach far and wide, they may be seen by either someone with information, or the missing person (Holmes 2016). ...
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Police agencies globally are seeing an increase in reports of people going missing. These people are often vulnerable, and their safe and early return is a key factor in preventing them from coming to serious harm. One approach to quickly find missing people is to disseminate appeals for information using social media. Yet despite the popularity of twitter-based missing person appeals, presently little is known about how to best construct these messages to ensure they are shared far and wide. This paper aims to build an evidence-base for understanding how police accounts tweet appeals for information about missing persons, and how the public engage with these tweets by sharing them. We analyse 1,008 Tweets made by Greater Manchester Police between the period of 2011 and 2018 in order to investigate what features of the tweet, the twitter account, and the missing person are associated with levels of retweeting. We find that tweets with different choice of image, wording, sentiment, and hashtags vary in how much they are retweeted. Tweets that use custody images have lower retweets than Tweets with regular photos, while tweets asking the question “have you seen...?” and asking explicitly to be retweeted have more engagement in the form of retweets. These results highlight the need for conscientious, evidence-based crafting of missing appeals, and pave the way for further research into the causal mechanisms behind what affects engagement, to develop guidance for police forces worldwide.
... Therefore, it is important how these cases are approached and interventions carried out. Unlike the investigation of known crimes, the investigation of cases of missing children is different and specific (5), because in these investigations, it is not enough to only capture the perpetrator/perpetrators. At the same time, the police should be able to find the child alive/safe and delivered to his/her relatives (3). ...
... Resulting from these two developments, the interest in the subject and how to approach and investigate the cases of missing children has increased in recent years. Most of the police investigations in the UK relate to missing cases (5). Two-thirds of them are children and the most frequent age range is in 15-17. ...
... Although studies on the subject of missing children and child abduction have increased, it is not enough (1,(12)(13)(14). In the studies, the challenges of the missing person investigations, the behaviour of the missing people, the geographic information in the missing investigations, the importance of the risk assessment and immediate response were discussed and suggestions were made to help the police investigations (1,5,8,13,(15)(16)(17). While these studies generally mention the investigation of missing persons, they rarely touch on the characteristics (e.g. using media parties such as alert systems etc.) of investigation of missing children cases specifically. ...
Article
Full-text available
Objective:The present study aims to criticize how to intervene and investigate in cases of missing children in Turkey in the context of first response, criminal investigation and TV Programmes. Thus, we can offer suggestions on how to make more effective interventions in missing children cases in the context of the current investigation of missing and abducted children cases.Methods:The research adopted a qualitative analysis method and in order to collect data, interviewing and documenting technique from professionals related to Turkish approach (n=5), and speakers and producers of TV programmes (ATV-T.S. and Fox TV-K.Ç.) related to missing children (n=3) were applied. Then the collected data were analyzed with content analysis.Results:Content analysis yielded three themes: 1-Administrative approach and first response, 2- Judiciary approach and criminal investigation, 3- The approach of TV programs. In the light of findings, many institutions participate in the intervention process, professionals from many different fields need to work together, investigation processes are also defined step by step. It has been observed that there is no certainty about standards on the issues of receiving the first report of missing children, how is the transition from administrative approach to judicial approach in the case of a criminal factor, coordination of the units and professionals involved in the process. The effectiveness of TV programs in mobilizing potential witnesses (the third eye) is significant; however, there are no standards in relation to the protection of witnesses, victims and their relatives against defamation and disclosure.Conclusion:In the context of the Turkish approach, in order for the intervention and investigation of missing and abducted children to become more effective, standards should be determined at the following four points: Receiving missing reports, the importance of time in the context of criminal assessment, the coordination of approaches, using mass media for the third eye and participants rights in TV programs. Effective training must be developed that ensures all parties are aware of the processes, how to implement them and what information they might need to carry out for an effective investigation.
... Over the years, these reports have been on the rise, increasing by more than 2,000 since 2015 (Government of Canada, 2015;Canada's Missing, 2019). One consequence of this increase is a greater demand on policing resources, not only regarding the quantity of reports, but also because there is an assortment of challenges associated with these cases (Biehal et al., 2003;James et al., 2008;Fyfe et al., 2015a). For example, one such challenge is that their unknown whereabouts are considered to be out of character, which suggests they may be at risk of harm or may pose harm to others or themselves (Fyfe et al., 2015b;Hirschel & Lab, 1988;Smith & Shalev Greene, 2015). ...
... As a result, resource allocation is particularly important because police agencies are expected to perform several tasks within a limited time frame, and often without proper oversight, due to the vast amount of cases they are tasked with (Smith & Shalev Greene, 2015). These issues include the area they are expected to cover (Fyfe et al., 2015a), performing a proper risk assessment of the missing person (Newiss, 2005;Smith & Shalev Greene, 2015) and seeking proper press appeals for public assistance (Hattingh & Matthee, 2016;Shalev Greene & Pakes, 2014). In addition, missing person investigations are often assigned on top of regular duties, which can lead to increased strain on officers who are already limited on time and resources, as these investigations have to be handled alongside their day-to-day tasks. ...
... Due to these issues, this paper looks to social media as a prosperous avenue for appealing to the public for information and assistance with the investigations. While there is not much literature on the role of the media in aiding police investigations of missing persons, the existing research suggests that traditionally the media operates with police agencies to set up appeals for information, family press appeals, and to communicate information on the missing person (Fyfe et al., 2015a). Due to this, the media become an investigative resource, as these acts of contact with the public function to get as many individuals as possible to be aware of the missing individual, which ideally increases the chances of locating them (Fyfe et al., 2015a). ...
Article
Thousands of people go missing each year in Canada, with recent figures noting over 70,000 reports generated in 2019. While missing person cases can place strains on police resources, the use of Internet technology can attenuate some of the demands by aiding with the investigations. As a result, this exploratory study examines one social media tool, Twitter, for missing person investigations by police in Canada. Through logistic regression, we analyze 373 missing person tweets posted over two years (2017–2019) from 15 Canadian police services on Twitter to estimate which features are likely to increase public engagement (retweets, likes, and comments) with these tweets. Results reveal that there are several features significantly associated with higher engagement, such as images and hashtags, ergo increasing community outreach and participation, as well as the likelihood of efficiently and successfully solving these cases. Therefore, we suggest that having standardized components to missing person tweets will enhance the usefulness of this tool.
... In England and Wales, there were 282,066 recorded missing persons cases in 2014/15 (NCA, 2016). This equates to a new case being recorded approximately every two minutes (Fyfe, Stevenson and Woolnough, 2015). Responding to reports of missing persons is a significant challenge for the police (Shalev Greene and Hayden, 2014;Fyfe, Stevenson and Woolnough, 2015). ...
... This equates to a new case being recorded approximately every two minutes (Fyfe, Stevenson and Woolnough, 2015). Responding to reports of missing persons is a significant challenge for the police (Shalev Greene and Hayden, 2014;Fyfe, Stevenson and Woolnough, 2015). According to estimates from the College of Policing (2015), the police devote upward of 3 million 'investigation hours' per year to missing persons reports in the UK. ...
... The literature distinguishes, for example, between individuals who go missing voluntarily (such as those seeking to escape problems or pressures), with individuals who go missing involuntarily (such as people with dementia who may become lost) as well as those whose absence is in some way 'forced', as with kidnappings and abductions (Quinet, 2012;Biehal, Mitchell and Wade, 2003). As Fyfe et al. (2015) observe, part of the complexity inherent in missing persons investigations is accurately locating an absentee along the 'missing continuum' (Biehal et al. 2003), and thereby determining an appropriate police response. ...
Article
Missing persons investigations are arguably the most common and costly non-crime problem the police are expected to handle, with a large proportion of all cases attributable to young people. This article investigates the prevalence, time course, distance, and correlates of repeat disappearances by children (under the age of 18 years). Using data from one UK police force for the period January 2011 to May 2013 (n = 1,885), we find that (1) nearly two-thirds of all missing child reports are repeat disappearances, (2) a small proportion of children who go missing repeatedly (15%) account for over half of all missing persons incidents, (3) children who go missing repeatedly tend to travel shorter distances than children reported missing once, and (4) the likelihood of a child going missing on multiple occasions is associated with age, being in care, a history of family conflict, and if going missing was judged to be ‘out of character’. The implications of our findings for the prevention of repeat disappearances by young people are discussed.
... Lo que fundamenta otra de las preocupaciones que rodean la problemática de las personas desaparecidas: la necesidad de abordar la prevención de estos desenlaces y la estandarización de la investigación policial en función de la evidencia (Bonny et al., 2016;Buckley, 2012;Huey y Ferguson, 2020;Newiss, 2004;Sarkin, 2019;Woolnough et al., 2019;Woolnough y Cunningham, 2020). Especialmente en lo que respecta a las tareas relacionadas con el establecimiento de mecanismos eficaces de valoración del riesgo de sufrir una lesión, o el fallecimiento, durante la desaparición (Buckley, 2012;Eales, 2017;Fyfe, Stevenson y Woolnough, 2015). En pos de abordar estos retos, durante los últimos años la investigación científica viene explorando de manera empírica las relaciones existentes entre las características de las desapariciones, las personas desparecidas y el estado de salud en el que son localizadas (Bantry y Montgomery, 2015; Biehal et al., 2003;Bricknell, 2017;Eales, 2017;Newiss, 2004, Newiss, 2006Newiss, 2011;Newiss y Greatbatch, 2019;Sveticic et al., 2012;Tarling y Burrows, 2004). ...
... En el ámbito internacional, la literatura científica existente señala que los casos de adultos desaparecidos se caracterizan por: ser hombres, de edades tempranas, con antecedentes de salud mental, involucrados en procesos judiciales/policiales, que abusan del alcohol y las drogas, o tienen problemas económicos, laborales, familiares y relacionados con las emociones (Biehal et al., 2003;Blackemore et al., 2005;Foy, 2006;Foy, 2016;García-Barceló et al., 2019;Gibb y Woolnough, 2007;Greene y Hayden, 2014;Kiernan y Henderson, 2002;Newiss, 2004;Newiss, 2006;Tarling y Burrows, 2004;Payne, 1995). Por otro lado, en relación con las características asociadas a los menores se ha identificado que éstos son personas que: están en centros de acogida, son reincidentes, tienen antecedentes de salud mental, abusan de alcohol y drogas, han sido víctimas de situaciones de abuso, negligencia, discriminación o explotación sexual, tienen problemas familiares, escolares, emocionales, relacionados con la delincuencia, o pretenden ser independientes (Biehal et al., 2003;Blackmore et al., 2005;Crosland y Dunlap, 2015;Greene y Hayden, 2014;García-Barceló et al., 2019;Kiepal et al., 2012;Morewitz, 2016;Shalev, 2011;Stevenson y Thomas, 2018;Thompson et al., 2011;Tyler y Cauce, 2002). ...
Article
Full-text available
La investigación científica sobre personas desaparecidas a nivel internacional y nacional se ha incrementado durante los últimos años en pos de abordar los diferentes retos establecidos acerca de la estandarización de la respuesta inicial (prevención e intervención) ante el fenómeno por parte de la Administración Pública. Los objetivos de este trabajo se centran en la identificación de las características que componen los perfiles de adultos y menores desaparecidos en España así como las relaciones existentes entre éstas y los estados de salud en los que las personas desaparecidas son localizadas. Se ha estudiado una muestra de 1,140 desapariciones ocurridas y esclarecidas en España en el año 2019. Los resultados indicaron que existen características que discriminan entre los perfiles de adultos y menores desaparecidos, así como entre los diferentes tipos de desenlaces (buen estado de salud, lesión y fallecimiento). Estos hallazgos generan diversas implicaciones en función del grupo de edad de la persona desaparecida: a) en el ámbito de la prevención general de las desapariciones, y sobre los grupos específicos de riesgo de resultar dañados o fallecidos, así como b) en el ámbito de la investigación policial para la creación de herramientas de apoyo a la toma de decisiones.
... The pandemic caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak and resultant government restrictions (i.e. lockdowns) have placed unique demands on the emergency services (WHO 2020) including the police (Laufs and Waseem 2020) who, in the UK, bear responsibility for assessing the risk of harm of reported missing persons, locating them, and managing safeguarding (Fyfe et al. 2015, College of Policing 2020. This is a challenging task in 'normal' times given the sheer volume, complexity of cases, and decisions around how best to allocate stretched resources (Fyfe et al. 2015). ...
... lockdowns) have placed unique demands on the emergency services (WHO 2020) including the police (Laufs and Waseem 2020) who, in the UK, bear responsibility for assessing the risk of harm of reported missing persons, locating them, and managing safeguarding (Fyfe et al. 2015, College of Policing 2020. This is a challenging task in 'normal' times given the sheer volume, complexity of cases, and decisions around how best to allocate stretched resources (Fyfe et al. 2015). ...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant restrictions imposed by governments pose short- and long-term challenges for the police, especially within resource-intensive areas of policing such as missing persons. However, the novelty of the pandemic means little research focus has been directed at understanding these challenges and how they may be overcome. Using archival reports from six UK police forces, the current study examined the extent to which missing persons cases changed during the first UK COVID-19 lockdown. Using a non-experimental fixed design, differences in the characteristics of reports of both children and adults who went missing between March and May 2020 and the same time period in 2019 were examined. Findings suggest a substantial reduction in missing reports overall, but a shift in the proportions of types of cases reported. For example, there was a greater proportion of adults classified as high risk of harm during this period and a greater proportion of children who were deemed low risk, who were living in residential care, and who were not from a White British background. Although forces must consider the findings within their local context, the study has implications in terms of demand and allocation of police resources, as well as multi-agency working. Future research is discussed.
... The paper then contextualises these estimated prevalence rates by comparing these with those reported in the general community to consider if and by how much contact rates with police and public mental health services differ then considers the policy and practice implications of these findings. The study is significant given the recent insights into the complex trajectories taken by missing persons and police responses to these (Fyfe, Stevenson, & Woolnough, 2015), as well as insights into the significant deleterious impact going missing can have on friends, families and loved ones (Clark, 2012;Wayland, Maple, McKay, & Glassock, 2016). ...
... Intentionality remains a complex mechanism to grapple with (e.g., Fyfe et al., 2015) and could not be addressed in the current study due to the nature of the methodology and data available. The return interview, as advocated in UK guidance for children who runaway or go missing (Department of Education, 2014), could potentially be broadened to all vulnerable person missing person cases, regardless of age, to help address this important knowledge gap. ...
Article
Approximately 35,000 people are reported missing each year in Australia; rates elsewhere are even higher, with a recent UK study suggesting that a person goes missing every 2 min. Missing persons place a significant burden on police services; it is interesting, therefore, that very little research attention has been paid to this topic. This mixed methods study aimed to address this significant gap by analysing the mental health and criminal justice histories of a sample of missing persons and comparing them to rates in the general community. The study found that both mental health and criminal justice histories were significantly overrepresented among missing persons compared to those in the general community, and that young people reported missing commonly displayed suicidal behaviour. Results highlight at risk groups and suggest that criminality is much more commonly implicated in missing person incidents than previously thought.
... These demands include not only the frontline response, such as information gathering and report writing, but also potential costs of activities associated with the investigative process, such as conducting interviews and executing searches. Other costs related to missing person investigations include the potential deployment of search and rescue teams (Fyfe et al., 2015) and the "combing through" of large quantities of public health or other relevant data, such as bank and telephone records, social media accounts, and so on. These costs are part of what has historically been the "dark figure" of operational policing costs, of which too little has been known (Huey et al., 2016). ...
... For example, only within the past four years have public records on missing persons been accessible for data analysis (Statistics Canada, 2018), and despite recent research on missing and murdered Indigenous women (Anderson, 2016;Royle, 2017), there is only a single peer-reviewed study on missing persons in Canada (Kiepal et al., 2012). The lack of existing research on missing persons has also made it difficult for police agencies, who are under increased public scrutiny, to develop evidence-based practices and make informed assessments of risk (Sowerby and Thomas, 2017;Fyfe et al., 2015). ...
Article
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to test the “power few” concept in relation to missing persons and the locations from which they are reported missing. Design/methodology/approach Data on missing persons’ cases ( n = 26,835) were extracted from the record management system of a municipal Canadian police service and used to create data sets of all of the reports associated with select repeat missing adults ( n = 1943) and repeat missing youth ( n = 6,576). From these sources, the five locations from which repeat missing adults and youth were most commonly reported missing were identified (“power few” locations). The overall frequency of reports generated by these locations was then assessed by examining all reports of both missing and repeat missing cases, and demographic and incident factors were also examined. Findings This study uncovers ten addresses (five for adults; five for youths) in the City from which this data was derived that account for 45 percent of all adults and 52 percent of all youth missing person reports. Even more striking, the study data suggest that targeting these top five locations for adults and youths could reduce the volume of repeat missing cases by 71 percent for adults and 68.6 percent for youths. In relation to the demographic characteristics of the study’s sample of adults and youths who repeatedly go missing, the authors find that female youth are two-thirds more likely to go missing than male youth. Additionally, the authors find that Aboriginal adults and youths are disproportionately represented among the repeat missing. Concerning the incident factors related to going missing repeatedly, the authors find that the repeat rate for going missing is 63.2 percent and that both adults and youths go missing 3–10 times on average. Practical implications The study results suggest that, just as crime concentrates in particular spaces among specific offenders, repeat missing cases also concentrate in particular spaces and among particular people. In thinking about repeat missing persons, the present research offers support for viewing these concerns as a behavior setting issue – that is, as a combination of demographic factors of individuals, as well as factors associated with particular types of places. Targeting “power few” locations for prevention efforts, as well as those most at risk within these spaces, may yield positive results. Originality/value Very little research has been conducted on missing persons and, more specifically, on how to more effectively target police initiatives to reduce case volumes. Further, this is the first paper to successfully apply the concept of the “power few” to missing persons’ cases.
... Numerous individual and environmental factors can modify the probability of finding a missing older adult [12], through the clues and guidance they offer to the missing case investigators [13] and/or to the missing older person (e.g., to help them return). For example, a missing person's greater cognitive resources or tighter social bonds could increase the probability of their returning if they went unintentionally missing. ...
Article
Full-text available
Person missingness is an enigmatic and frequent phenomenon that can bring about negative consequences for the missing person, their family, and society in general. Age-related cognitive changes and a higher vulnerability to dementia can increase the propensity of older adults to go missing. Thus, it is necessary to better understand the phenomenon of missingness in older adults. The present study sought to identify individual and environmental factors that might predict whether an older adult reported missing will be found. Supervised machine learning models were used based on the missing person cases open data of Colombia between 1930 and June 2021 ( n = 7855). Classification algorithms were trained to predict whether an older adult who went missing would eventually be found. The classification models with the best performance in the test data were those based on gradient boosting. Particularly, the Gradient Boosting Classifier and the Light Gradient Boosting Machine algorithms showed, respectively, 10% and 9% greater area under the curve (AUC) of the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve than a data-driven, reference model based on the mean of the reported time elapsed since the missingness observed in the training data. The features with the greatest contribution to the classification were the time since the missingness, the place where it occurred, and the age and sex of the missing person. The present results shed light on the societal phenomenon of person missingness while setting the ground for the application of machine learning models in cases of missing older persons.
... The latest strategic assessment of missing persons in the UK estimates that 858 missing person police reports are filed every day (SOCA, 2013). Consequently, missing persons are one of the biggest demands on police resources and present complex investigative challenges (see Fyfe et al, 2014). In recognition of these challenges, Gibb and Woolnough (2007) developed the first normative spatial profiles to specifically aid police missing person investigations (Gibb & Woolnough, 2007). ...
Article
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In 2014, ACPO and the CPS published revised guidance in Liaison and information exchange when criminal proceedings coincide with Chapter Four Serious Case Reviews or Welsh Child Practice Reviews. In this article, the author outlines the rational underpinning the revised guidance and provides an overview of the main issues.
... It covers, for example, adults who go missing for reasons of financial hardship, teenagers running away from their care placements, children who are abducted, individuals missing in the wake of a disaster and persons who are simply waylaid or disoriented. Variation in the motivation behind and circumstances of missing incidents can make it challenging to ascertain a proportionate police response (Fyfe et al. 2015)all the more so if the available information is limited. Thus, although the vast majority of missing persons are located safely and within 24 h (see Holmes 2017), the police must respond with the knowledge that a small number of missing person cases involve an immediate threat to life (Newiss 1999). ...
Article
Investigating reports of missing children is a major source of demand for the police in the UK. Repeat disappearances are common, can indicate underlying vulnerabilities and have been linked with various forms of exploitation and abuse. Inspired by research on repeat victimisation, this paper examines the prevalence and temporal patterns of repeat missing episodes by children, as well as the characteristics of those involved. Using data on all missing children incidents recorded by one UK police service in 2015 (n = 3352), we find that: (a) 75% of missing incidents involving children were repeats, i.e. attributed to children who had already been reported missing in 2015; (b) a small proportion of repeatedly missing children (n = 59; 4%) accounted for almost a third of all missing children incidents (n = 952, 28%); (c) over half of all first repeat disappearances occurred within four weeks of an initial police recorded missing episode; and (d) children recorded as missing ten times or more over the one year study period were significantly more likely than those recorded missing once to be teenagers, in the care system or to have drug and/or alcohol dependencies. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for future research and the prevention of repeat disappearances by children.
... When a child goes missing it is commonplace for charities, law enforcement, family and friends of the child, to release photographs and details of the child through the media in the hope that members of the public can help to locate or identify the child (Lampinen et al. 2012a;Sweeney and Lampinen 2012). Releasing images and descriptions of the missing child through the media allows the information to be seen by numerous individuals within a short period of time which wouldn't be possible using offline approaches (Fyfe et al. 2014;Taylor et al. 2013). Despite their importance and frequent use, however, there is a limited understanding on how effective this approach is (Drivsholm et al. 2017;Lampinen and Moore 2016;Lampinen et al. 2012b;Sweeney and Lampinen 2012). ...
Article
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When a child goes missing it is common practice to release an appeal of the child in the hope that a member of the public could help to identify and locate them. Despite being an everyday occurrence, there remains a significant gap in our understanding of how effective these appeals are. The present study sought to explore the effectiveness of missing children appeals through the recall accuracy of the general public immediately after observing the appeals and again after a three-day delay. One hundred and eighty-two participants observed either a mock Child Rescue Alert or a mock Twitter appeal. The results found no significant difference in recall accuracy between the design of the appeals although there was a significant difference in recall error. Confidence in own recall accuracy and the length of time spent observing the appeals were also found to be significantly associated with recall accuracy. Initial recall accuracy scores were significantly higher than recall accuracy scores following a three-day break. This exploratory study demonstrates the requirement to improve missing children appeals and lays the foundation for future studies to build on these findings further.
... In addition, missing persons posts were associated with the highest amount of user engagement at all levels of positive engagement, except for moderate engagement. This finding highlights the unique relationship between social media and missing persons cases, where community engagement (in traditional media studies) is typically more pronounced for these types of cases (Fyfe et al., 2015). This finding suggests that Facebook may be a highly beneficial tool to increase exposure of missing persons cases. ...
Article
Social media use by law enforcement agencies has been on the rise in recent years. Given that engaging with the community online has shown significant impact for businesses, there is reason to believe that law enforcement agencies will also benefit from this type of media use. However, success with social media is contingent upon user engagement. Research on law enforcement agencies' social media use is limited, and examinations of community engagement with law enforcement via social networking sites such as Facebook are non-existent. This study adds to the literature by examining user engagement with social media posts from a law enforcement agency in a large metropolis in Louisiana. Findings indicate that there are significant differences in engagement by the type, time, and content of the posts. Based on these findings, implications for practitioners and law enforcement agencies are discussed.
... In [5] the Department of Justice is quoted stating that "Intense, early media coverage ensures that people will be looking for your child". The notion that police recovery efforts are more effective with greater news coverage is reinforced in interviews with police officers [47]. ...
Article
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We inquire whether there are race and gender differences in the recovery of missing children. We argue that race and gender differences may arise due to differential media attention, socio-economic background and police resources. Datasets used in previous research lack the representativeness and longitudinal character necessary for probing victim demographic effects on recovery success. Here we use official New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services records of all children reported missing in the period 2007-2010 containing exact dates of disappearance and recovery. In event-history analysis of these data we find that missing boys and girls have comparable daily recovery chances. Black children, however, on average remain missing longer and are more likely to still be missing by the end of our observation period than non-black children.
... This case was not time limited as it was a cold case; hence, a phased, multisite visit and multigeophysical technique approach was appropriate. In contrast, a "live" active missing person case (see, for example, [61]) would have a similar methodology but with the recognition of the time constraints, perhaps data would be processed onsite between techniques and results reviewed, which should have the caveat that this may reduce the potential detection rate if done in haste. As with any live case, the deployment strategy and choice of search techniques must remain flexible to accommodate a changing intelligence picture. ...
Article
Police witness intelligence stated a murdered adult male “Fred” had been vertically buried in wooded hilly terrain 30 years ago in the Midlands, U.K. Conventional search methods were unsuccessful; therefore, the police requested a geophysical investigation to be undertaken to determine whether “Fred” could be detected. A multiphased geophysical approach was conducted, using bulk ground conductivity and metal detectors, then follow‐up magnetics and ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey profiles on electromagnetic (EM) anomalous areas. A tight grid pattern was used to account for the reduced target size. Relatively high‐resolution EM and GPR techniques were determined optimal for this terrain and sandy soil. Geophysical anomalies were identified and the most promising intrusively investigated, and this was found to be a large boulder and tree roots. Study implications suggest careful multiphase geophysical surveys are best practice and give confidence in cold case searches. This study yielded a no‐body result, effectively saving police time and costs from further investigations.
... With regards to the latter, these findings may support those of Smith and Shalev-Greene (2015), who found the final decision on risk assessment to be largely based on the discretion of the investigating officer(s), rather than prescribed only by risk assessment tools. Moreover, Fyfe et al. (2015) found that some police officers saw policy and guidance related to missing persons as limited in its ability to determine an appropriate police response, and that the experience and instinct of individual police officers was more important. ...
Article
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In England and Wales, police consider potential harm in missing person investigations using graded risk assessment. Using 4746 missing person reports made to one police force in 2015, we investigate the extent to which age, sex and police risk factors predict high-risk classifications and harmful case outcomes. We find age, sex and specific risk factors including out of character behaviour and suicide risk increased the likelihood of high-risk classifications, whilst other risk factors including physical/mental illness and drug/ alcohol misuse increased the likelihood of harmful outcomes. We also find certain risk factors reduced the likelihood of high-risk classifications and harmful outcomes.
... The formal mission of the Swedish Police Authority is to reduce crime and increase public safety (Police Act, 1984, p. 387). Responding to reports of missing persons represents one of the heaviest demands on police worldwide (Fyfe, Stevenson, & Woolnough, 2015). In Sweden, every year around 7000 persons are reported missing, of which the police handle around 300 cases as high-priority searches (Expressen, 2016;GA, 2012;Polisen, 2016). ...
Article
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Many Western-style democracies have witnessed a general shift in the distribution of crime prevention responsibility, away from the state and increasingly to citizens themselves. Civil society is today more and more often called upon as an additional policing resource. This article explores the phenomenon of voluntary citizen participation in policing in Sweden, based on an analysis of 9280 news-media articles. One state-sanctioned (the Volunteers of the Police) and one autonomous civic (Missing People Sweden) initiative were examined, from their respective start until 2017, to understand the role played by police–citizen partnerships in the establishment and legitimation of voluntary policing forms in Sweden. A high degree of integration between police and volunteer work was found, enabling not only effective citizen participation, but also having an influence on police operations. The more effective and publicly visible the voluntary policing bodies were, the more pressure there was on the police to defend its legitimacy, ally itself with the volunteers and regulate the latter’s activities while holding them responsible for their actions. Arguably, however, with the police–citizen relationship being one of integration and mutual dependence, the division of labour and the accountability of both parties risk becoming blurred or even confused.
... This is due its numerous practical applications, the most obvious been the search for missing people. Missing person cases are rampant across the globe, in the UK alone, the police record up to 300, 000 missing person cases every year [6]; popular examples are the disappearance of Madeleine McCann [7] and Ben Needham [8]. In Ireland, the case of Mary Boyle is considered one of the longest missing persons case. ...
Chapter
Recently, automatic age progression has gained popularity due to its numerous applications. Among these is the search for missing people, in the UK alone up to 300,000 people are reported missing every year. Although many algorithms have been proposed, most of the methods are affected by image noise, illumination variations, and most importantly facial expressions. To this end we propose to build an age progression framework that utilizes image de-noising and expression normalizing capabilities of kernel principal component analysis (Kernel PCA). Here, Kernel PCA a nonlinear form of PCA that explores higher order correlations between input variables is used to build a model that captures the shape and texture variations of the human face. The extracted facial features are then used to perform age progression via a regression procedure. To evaluate the performance of the framework, rigorous tests are conducted on the FGNET ageing database. Furthermore, the proposed algorithm is used to progress image of Mary Boyle; a 6-year-old that went missing over 39 years ago, she is considered Ireland’s youngest missing person. The algorithm presented in this paper could potentially aid, among other applications, the search for missing people worldwide.
... Although the UK Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Guidance for the Management Recording and investigation of Missing Persons (ACPO, 2010) uses flowcharts and tables to represent knowledge and guidelines regarding missing persons investigations, such techniques can have difficulty in fully representing the operational complexities involved in such investigations. Fyfe et al. (2015) commented upon the complexities of capturing and representing knowledge related to police investigations, as policing is enmeshed in a web of situational and structural contingencies. Agrež and Damij (2015) stated that codification of the knowledge within organizational processes can provide the opportunity to overcome some of the limitations of knowledge management in organizational processes that may be uncertain or unstable. ...
Article
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Purpose This paper aims to present the application of situation calculus for knowledge representation in missing persons investigations. Design/methodology/approach The development of a knowledge representation model for the missing persons investigation process based upon situation calculus, with a demonstration of the use of the model for a missing persons example case. Findings Situation calculus is valuable for knowledge representation for missing persons investigations, as such investigations have state changes over time, and due to the complexity of the differing investigation activities applicable to different situations, can be difficult to represent using simpler approaches such as tables or flowcharts. Research limitations/implications Situation calculus modelling for missing persons investigations adds formalism to the process beyond that which can be afforded by the current use of text, tables or flowcharts. The additional formalism is useful in dealing with the uncertainty present in such investigations. Practical implications The implications are a simplification of the application of the current police guidelines, and thoroughness in the application of such guidelines for missing persons investigations via situation calculus modelling. Social implications This paper supports the management of missing person investigations, by using the most critical variables in a missing persons investigation to determine relevant investigation and search activities applicable to the circumstances of a given case. Originality/value The novelty of the knowledge representation approach is the application of situation calculus via state and action vectors and a matrix of fluents to the process of missing persons investigations.
... This dark fi gure of missing data frequently proves an obstacle for the police in effi cient tracking down and locating a missing person. Following the established protocol comprised of a series of questions, the call handler will gather critical information (Fyfe, Stevenson, & Woolnough, 2014 ). A badly received report and the lack of information would not only prevent the timely search and fi nding of a missing person, it would also create a negative public image of the police. ...
Chapter
This paper focuses on the incidence, socio-demographic, psychological and psychiatric profiles of missing persons, as well as on the reporting and searching for missing persons. The sample used in the study included 1,724 cases of missing persons reported to the police between 2010 and 2012, representing 34.2% of the total number of reported missing persons in Croatia. Although missing persons in Croatia are far better educated than the general population, poor social circumstances interacting with mental problems, are found to lie behind the circumstances, motives and reasons of disappearance. Typically in Croatia the missing person report is given by family members, followed by institutions such as reform institutions for children and juveniles and psychiatric hospitals. Indicators of police effectiveness in Croatia show a relatively prompt response by the police, adequacy of the spectre of measures and actions undertaken, and a satisfactory degree of partnership and cooperation with the community. Keywords: missing persons, Croatia, socio demographic status, psychological and psychiatric status, reporting, searching
... This dark fi gure of missing data frequently proves an obstacle for the police in effi cient tracking down and locating a missing person. Following the established protocol comprised of a series of questions, the call handler will gather critical information (Fyfe, Stevenson, & Woolnough, 2014 ). A badly received report and the lack of information would not only prevent the timely search and fi nding of a missing person, it would also create a negative public image of the police. ...
Chapter
The intention of this chapter is to make a contribution to the overall body of knowledge on the missing persons phenomenon. This study is a part of a larger study conducted for the first time in the Republic of Croatia. It focuses on the incidence, socio-demographic, psychological and psychiatric profiles of missing persons, as well as on the reporting and searching for missing persons relating to the police performance procedure, and on the relationships among all these factors. The sample used in the study included 1724 cases of missing persons reported to the police between 2010 and 2012, representing 34.2 % of the total number of reported missing persons in Croatia. Although missing persons in Croatia are far better educated than the general population, poor social circumstances interacting with mental problems are found to lie behind the circumstances, motives and reasons of disappearance.
... Third, responding to reports of missing persons represents one of the biggest demands on the resources of law enforcement agencies (Fyfe et al. 2015). It is vital to remember that the absence, even partial, of resources will inevitably have a detrimental impact on the successful implementation of the policy (Dorey 2005). ...
Article
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This study empirically analyses the definition of a ‘missing person’ for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which is part of a wider policy concerning missing persons published by the College of Policing (2016). Four hundred six participants (i.e. police officers and civilian staff) were asked for their viewpoint on (a) the suitability of the current definition, (b) the limitations of the definition and (c) components that should be included in a future definition. Sixty-five per cent of participants did not consider the current definition suitable and identified components they considered inappropriate as well as components they wished to add to a missing person definition. The findings are discussed in relation to the wider context of policy process and policy implementation, as well as the need for a coordinated response across public sectors, and comparability between countries within the EU and internationally. This paper advances policy learning by identifying challenges resulting from utilising the policy and concludes with recommendations in order to inform future policy discussions.
... En general, la literatura académica coincide en que la mayoría de personas que desaparecen son adolescentes, entre los 14 a 18 años aproximadamente, y que suelen estar vinculados a desapariciones voluntarias como fugas (Tarling & Barrows, 2004;Foy, 2016;Newiss, 2006;Fyfe et al., 2015). Entre los adultos, el grupo de edad que más tiende a desaparecer son los individuos de entre 24 y 30 años, decreciendo gradualmente el número de casos conforme se incrementa la edad (Biehal et al., 2003). ...
Article
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Las desapariciones son un fenómeno global que generan una gran alarma social y suponen una repercusión psicológica grave para los implicados. La mayoría de personas desaparecidas son localizadas en menos de 24 horas en buen estado de salud. No obstante, un pequeño porcentaje se asocia con un desenlace fatal, siendo el suicidio la principal causa de muerte. El trabajo actual se centra en el estudio de las desapariciones con desenlace suicida en función del sexo y la edad de la persona desaparecida. Para ello, se ha realizado un análisis del método empleado, entorno utilizado y distancia recorrida por la persona, intentando establecer si existe una asociación entre las variables. Los resultados muestran que los hombres tienden a utilizar el ahorcamiento y los entornos boscosos, desplazándose mayores distancias, mientras que las mujeres recorren una menor distancia destacando la sobredosis como método predilecto. No se han encontrado resultados concluyentes en cuanto a método y entorno según la edad del individuo pero si se ha observado que la distancia recorrida es menor cuanto mayor edad tiene el desaparecido. Este estudio supone un aumento del conocimiento empírico en torno a las desapariciones de etiología suicida, aportando información que pueda ser utilizada en las estrategias preventivas, así como de actuación policial.
... Appeals have been published across numerous offline and online systems that include the use of posters, milk cartons, social media sites, radio and television broadcasts, websites, billboards, newspapers, and rescue alerts, to name a few (Drivsholm et al. 2017). Publishing missing children appeals through the media is a vital resource for law enforcement due to the ability to request help from members of the public across an extensive area in a short period of time (Fyfe et al. 2014;Taylor et al. 2013). Moreover, the use of the media allows individuals who may not hold any information about the missing child to assist by sharing the appeal with their own media followers. ...
Article
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When a child goes missing, it is commonplace to release details of the child in the hope that a member of the public can help to locate him or her. Despite their importance and daily usage, there remains a significant gap in understanding just how effective these appeals are in helping to locate missing children. This exploratory study utilized a two-stage approach and sought (1) to explore whether the length of the description and the type of content enclosed in the description influenced subsequent recall abilities, (2) to determine whether the length of time spent reading the mock appeal influences the subsequent recall ability, (3) to establish whether confidence in own recall ability is associated with overall recall ability, and (4) to determine whether descriptive length and content influences the subsequent recall ability following a 3-day break. Two hundred and twenty-three participants observed one of four mock missing children descriptions followed by a short word memory distraction task and a free-recall task. The second stage comprised of another free-recall task presented after a short 3-day delay. Two-way factorial ANOVAs found observing shorter descriptions have significantly greater recall accuracy than observing longer descriptions both immediately after observing the appeal and after a 3-day delay. Results also found that newsworthy descriptive content had a greater recall accuracy than non-newsworthy descriptive content after a 3-day delay. Additional analyses found that confidence in own accuracy and time spent observing the appeals was also significantly associated with recall accuracy. The findings demonstrate the necessity for improving missing children appeals.
... The term 'missing person' encompasses a diverse group of people who go missing for a variety reasons, many of whom exhibit underlying vulnerabilities to do with age, mental health and substance dependencies. Moreover, although the majority of missing persons return safe, swiftly and without the need for police intervention (Fyfe et al., 2015), a small proportion of individuals are exposed to harm (broadly defined) when missing (Doyle and Barnes, 2020;Rees and Lee, 2005). In 2019/20 in England and Wales, there were 955 cases in which an individual reported as missing was later found deceased (National Crime Agency, 2021). ...
Article
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This study examines the extent and time course of repeat missing incidents involving children. Using data from one UK police force (n = 2,251), we find (1) that the majority (65%) of missing incidents are repeats, (2) that a small group of repeatedly missing children (n = 43; 6%) account for a sizable proportion of all missing incidents (n=739, 33%) and (3) that the likelihood of a child going missing repeatedly is elevated in the weeks immediately following a previous missing incident. The implications of our findings for future research and for the prevention of missing incidents are discussed.
... Interestingly, we found that the presence of other maladaptive coping behaviors, such as using substances and/or gambling, less frequently resulted in a missing episode, but were mentioned in relation to them, relative to other negative emotions and stressors. This finding is in contrast to existing literature on the reasons for 'going missing' or factors influencing people to go missing (e.g., Biehal, Mitchell, and Wade 2003;Brenton 1978;Fyfe, Stevenson, and Woolnough 2015;Hirschel and Lab 1988;Tarling and Burrows 3 Unfortunately, in relation to histories of individuals being reported previously missing, we only had partial data upon which to draw, as one of the services did not provide such information. ...
Article
This study applied the Threat Appraisal and Coping Theory to explore the mechanisms influencing a person to go missing. We examined the negative emotions and stressors – proximate stressors/stressful events, underlying life stressors, emotional states, and other dysfunctional behaviors – of adults who were reported as missing from 2014-2018. Our results indicate that missing persons experience significant underlying life stressors, stressful situations, and proximate stressors that can ‘trigger’ a missing episode. We also found that most missing adults are described as facing negative emotions, such as anger, and engaging in maladaptive behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, that are related to these events. These findings, we suggest, highlight that affectual and individual-level mechanisms are influential factors contributing to why adults go missing. Lastly, it was revealed that missing adults are commonly reported as experiencing strains and stressors in their personal relationships, indicating that this phenomenon may be attenuated through social support as an adaptive coping resource. Through these results, we can begin to understand missingness as driven by a negative event, stressor, or emotion in which the person engages in the maladaptive coping behavior of ‘going missing’ as a way to escape the situation and achieve some level of emotional or cognitive distance.
... Yet surprisingly little is currently known about the first stage of the funnel, namely the extent to which unlawful killings remain unreported, undiscovered, or classified mistakenly by coroners or police authorities, and the factors associated with misregistration or non-registration of homicide cases (UNODC, 2019, p. 69). Some homicides may not be discovered by the authorities (Fyfe et al., 2015). This may include disappearances, particularly when they include "missing missings" (i.e., missing persons who were never reported as missing and some of whom may be homicide victims) (Quinet, 2007) and killings of individuals who are not registered yet, such as newborn children (Liem & Koenraadt, 2018). ...
Article
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The likelihood that homicides lead to arrest, conviction, and incarceration of the perpetrators varies widely across world regions. To date, we lack a comprehensive framework that can explain the differences in how homicide cases are processed in different jurisdictions, and how this knowledge can be used to hold perpetrators to account, to advance the rule of law, and to promote equal access to justice. This Special Issue seeks to advance the cross-national and comparative analysis of homicide case flows, from suspicious death to imprisonment. In this Introduction, we outline some analytic priorities that may help in moving the field forward.
... Several investigations from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada into these and other related matters have demonstrated that policing approaches to missing persons are outdated, insufficient, fragmented, unequal, biased, and/or unreliable, and that police face many challenges related to this work as a result (e.g. Clark et al., 2009;Epstein, 2021;Fyfe et al., 2015;Neely, 2016). Such concerns, for example, are noted in a recent independent review of the Toronto Police Service, Canada responses to missing person reports by Epstein (2021), which emphasizes that "systemic issues remain" due to inadequate and second-rate training (p. ...
Article
Police search and rescue (SAR) teams are crucial players in resolving missing person cases. Resultantly, police employ a host of training for SAR members in collaboration with institutions, organizations, and groups. Such training, however, has not been studied. This warrants attention as, in a time of police legitimacy crises and austerity policing, appropriate and quality police training for effective, efficient practices is imperative. Therefore, we examined the training needs and offerings for police SAR personnel, and their impact on SAR operations and work, through thematic analysis of interviews with 52 police SAR members from 17 agencies across Canada. Findings suggest there are no homogeneous, structured, or standardized training offerings for police SAR personnel. Instead, training varies within and across agencies and regions, and between officers and roles, as it is commonly based upon anecdotal experiences and in-house developed ‘best practices.’ We discuss the implications of these findings for police SAR operations and work.
... It covers, for example, adults who go missing for reasons of financial hardship, teenagers running away from their care placements, children who are abducted, individuals missing in the wake of a disaster and persons who are simply waylaid or disoriented. Variation in the motivation behind and circumstances of missing incidents can make it challenging to ascertain a proportionate police response (Fyfe et al. 2015)all the more so if the available information is limited. Thus, although the vast majority of missing persons are located safely and within 24 h (see Holmes 2017), the police must respond with the knowledge that a small number of missing person cases involve an immediate threat to life (Newiss 1999). ...
... Whilst many missing people are found quickly or return voluntarily (Tarling & Burrows, 2004), going missing can be a catalyst to endangering individuals predisposing them to becoming a victim of crime or harm. Every week across the UK, 20 missing people are found dead (Fyfe, Stevenson & Woolnough, 2015). Fatal outcomes roughly equate to 0.6-1% of the annual reported missing population (Newiss, 2006). ...
Article
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To date, no research has examined the decay models that best describe male and female spatial behaviours whilst missing, particularly of those that demonstrate suicide intent. Such knowledge could help to inform investigative strategies. Three studies were conducted using missing persons data from two police forces. In study 1, ANOVA and Mann-Whitney U tests examined the distance travelled by male (n=158) and female (n=135) subgroups; with respect to the impact of gender, likely suicidal and vehicle possession. Study 2a considers which curve estimate best describes likely and non-likely suicidal males (n=180) and females (n=157) spatial movements whilst missing. Study 2b cross validated suicidal male curves identified in study 2a, using information taken from missing persons cases where the person had been found to have died through suicide (N=24). Vehicle possession increased the distance travelled across all groups. Females travelled further than suicidal males, however, no distance travelled differences were found between suicide and non-suicidal sub-groups. The most significant curve estimate for likely suicidal males and females were the inverse and quadratic models respectively, illustrating exclusive gender movements in journeys to suicide. There are meaningful gender differences in spatial movements when missing. Thus, gender specified search parameters can be generated, potentially aiding quicker detection, prevention and safeguarding of adults at risk of self-harm.
... The media can be a vital resource for law enforcement as well as the family and friends of the missing child as the media has the potential to access further witnesses who may hold significant information concerning the missing child (Fyfe et al., 2015;Taylor et al., 2013). Likewise, individuals who do not hold any information on the missing child but interact with the media frequently may feel compelled to help by sharing the appeal with their own social media followers (Drivsholm et al., 2017). ...
Article
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Releasing missing person appeals is common practice when someone goes missing. Despite the wide-scale usage, the understanding on appeal effectiveness remains under-researched. This article aims to identify the factors that influence the likelihood of members of the public to report a child that has gone missing to the police and requires police assistance. Participant responses ( n = 252) were qualitatively analysed identifying four factors that positively influenced the likelihood of contacting the police, and two factors that negatively influenced the likelihood of not contacting the police to report the child. Practical implications are also discussed.
... However, the sheer volume of people reported missing among other policing demands means that it can be challenging for the police to conduct interviews, while also managing the worries of those who have reported the missing person. Furthermore, in the immediacy and emotion of reporting someone missing, the family member may not be able to clearly identify all potentially relevant items of information and may need re-interviewing which further adds to resourcing demands (Fyfe, Stevenson, & Woolnough, 2015). ...
Article
Purpose The success of missing person investigations often centres on the quality of information obtained in the early stages. Reliable information can not only inform the search but might also become vital evidence if the case broadens into a criminal investigation relating to a sexual offence, abduction, or even murder. In addition to eliciting high‐quality information, police officers must consider that those close to the missing person are likely going through a very difficult and stressful time. Across two studies, we developed and tested a self‐administered form (SAI‐MISSING) designed to obtain reliable information that would meaningfully inform a missing person investigation, as well as providing a means for family and friends to be actively involved. Methods In Experiment 1, 65 participants were tested individually and asked to provide a description of a person they knew well but had not seen for 24 hr. In the second study, 64 participants were tested in pairs, but immediately separated into different rooms and instructed to imagine that the person they came with has gone missing. In both studies, participants completed either the SAI‐MISSING tool, or a self‐administered control form. Results In Experiment 1, we found that the SAI‐MISSING tool elicited significantly more information regarding physical descriptions and descriptions of clothing and personal effects, than the comparison control form. In Experiment 2, we replicated this finding and further showed that the SAI‐MISSING tool produced higher accuracy rates than the control form. Conclusions Given the positive outcomes, potential applications of the tool are discussed.
Article
The unique feature of social media as a platform for news is that the public can directly engage with content. In this way, the public shapes the narrative on current issues, including crime. Criminal justice agencies have leveraged this engagement to relay information about missing persons’ cases quickly and efficiently to a large audience. Whereas previous research has explored disparities in news coverage of missing persons’ cases, it is unknown whether the public perpetuates these same disparities in the social media realm. This study contributes to the current literature by examining public engagement with missing persons’ social media content. Results suggest that engagement along some dimensions corresponds to disparities found in traditional news coverage, namely with regard to race, where marginalized victims experience less engagement. Further, there is evidence of an interaction between race and runaway status. Certain posting behaviors are also related to several forms of user engagement with missing persons’ posts; however, case characteristics remain prominent engagement-shaping factors. Implications for these findings are discussed from both a theoretical and practitioner standpoint.
Chapter
With an increased appetite for evidence-based policing within an Anglo-American context, advances in policing interventions, principles and strategies to reduce crime have gathered considerable pace. In contrast, while responding to missing persons reports is a large part of everyday policing, the associated research-base is in its infancy. Contributing to this paucity, this chapter draws on empirical evidence collected as part of an ESRC-funded study, the ‘Geographies of Missing People’. Making the case for the inclusion of narrative experience within policing practice, here we firstly outline the key elements of missing adults journeys as articulated by returned missing adults themselves and secondly provide insight into the search strategies and policing needs of families whilst their loved one is missing. In conclusion, we suggest that greater knowledge of missing geographies and family search, as articulated by those with first-hand experience, has relevance for improving police investigations and associated activities.
Chapter
The most publicised reminders of inaccurate risk classification by police officers dealing with missing person’s reports come from cases where the missing person was presumed to have runaway but was later found to have met with foul play. Fortunately, such occurrences are extremely rare. Despite this, there is still enormous pressure on the officer taking the initial missing persons report to ask the right questions, assess possible risk factors, make a judgement about what may have happened to the missing person and then allocate appropriate resources—all within a timely manner. For all police officers, and for every missing person report made, the task is complex. No research has been conducted in the area of misclassifications of risk when a new missing person report is received, so the true numbers remain unknown. Given the high numbers of missing persons reports that are made on a daily basis, this chapter will work towards helping all police officers make an informed and hopefully confident assessment of risk that has a high degree of reliability.
Article
Automatic facial age progression (AFAP) has been an active area of research in recent years. This is due to its numerous applications which include searching for missing. This study presents a new method of AFAP. Here, we use an active appearance model (AAM) to extract facial features from available images. An aging function is then modelled using sparse partial least squares regression (sPLS). Thereafter, the aging function is used to render new faces at different ages. To test the accuracy of our algorithm, extensive evaluation is conducted using a database of 500 face images with known ages. Furthermore, the algorithm is used to progress Ben Needham's facial image that was taken when he was 21 months old to the ages of 6, 14, and 22 years. The algorithm presented in this study could potentially be used to enhance the search for missing people worldwide.
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Media as a public health messaging tool can shape community perception. In missing persons’ investigations Police utilise media to assist in location and recovery of absent people. This study, of Australian media in 2019, revealed that the statistical evidence of who goes missing, and returns, revealed that is not replicated in news articles. Content analysis of 2,400 media items highlighting a disconnect between statistical rate of return from being missing (up to 98%) and the media profiling those who return (17% of media articles including returned missing persons narratives). In addition, Police and family dominate media conversations paying minimal attention to the reasons why people vanish or including comment from those who return. Recommendations for Police media strategies, that include an accurate portrayal of the experiences of returned missing persons, as a public health tool, is required.
Article
When somebody goes missing, they are missing by virtue of the fact that their whereabouts is unknown. However, being missing is not merely a physical phenomenon—it is socially and politically constituted and has social and political implications. These complexities are explored in this article through the term “missingness,” which refers to the sociality of lost individuals and describes the relational context under which people go missing and are understood to be missing.
Article
Despite the inherent vulnerability of missing children and the associated emotional intensity for those affected, there has been no academic exploration of child development and missing behaviour. The current enquiry comprised an examination of police case records to determine how the circumstances and behaviour of missing children varies across early childhood (2–6 years; n = 79; 10.3%), middle childhood (7–11 years; n = 175; 22.9%), and adolescence (12–17 years; n = 512; 66.9%). Children were more likely to go missing in adolescence than early or middle childhood, and more boys than girls were reported missing before adolescence, with the opposite pattern found during adolescence. Adolescents travelled further, took public transport more, and were more likely to be accompanied than those in the younger age groups. Children in the youngest age group were more likely to go missing unintentionally, whereas adolescents were more likely to run away intentionally. Based on these findings it is argued that developmentally informed understanding should contribute to future strategies for preventing and responding to missing children.
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