Missing persons. Far too many to be featured in a weekly TV series. There are always interesting, unique, and unresolved cases. Thousands of individuals are reported as missing in the USA each year. According to the FBI statistics, a very large percentage of them are under the age of 21 years old. The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is an electronic clearinghouse of crime data that can be tapped into by virtually every criminal justice agency nationwide. Law enforcement agencies use it to document and track missing persons files. When the police pull you over for a traffic violation, they can run your ID through the NCIC to view your current status. In this article, we will elaborate on the following circumstances to give a more comprehensive overview of the range of missing persons cases.
- Do law enforcement agencies prioritize the amount of time and effort they designate to the investigation of each missing person case? Yes!
- Are there cases of someone missing that are not even reported to law enforcement agencies? Yes!
- Are there situations where the family, friends and/or employers of the missing person need additional assistance and consultancy above and beyond what they generally receive from law enforcement? Yes!
Levels of Typical Missing Person Urgency
If a house has been forcefully broken into and vandalized, and signs of a struggle are found along with evidence of injury or trails of blood AND the occupant is deemed missing – then this displays the element of immediate danger. Law enforcement will raise the priority of this case to a high level. Resources and person power are assigned to the investigation in a concentrated effort to locate the perpetrators and ensure the safe return of the person who disappeared. The scope and range of the search can be substantial – even national if appropriate. Compare this to a case where a parent reports that their 19-year-old son is missing, and they don’t know where he might be. Some possessions were obviously packed, some money acquired, perhaps a note of good-bye or good riddance left behind. Law enforcement will investigate the circumstances and an NCIC report will be made – but since this is not categorized as crime-related, or any danger acknowledged, the priority of this missing person case is relatively low. If by chance the person crosses paths with police, the identification of a missing person will be returned when an NCIC search is initiated. If positive identification is made by police after they are interviewed briefly and no criminal charges are warranted most of the time adults are free to pursue their desired path. If they declare that they want to be out of contact with their past, and those who miss or are looking for them, the missing persons file is usually cancelled in NCIC; the significant others related to them may not even be notified directly when the case status is updated. Because of the fact that law enforcement will not aggressively pursue the further investigation of many lower level non-dangerous missing person cases, families will often retain the services of a private investigator or a smaller investigative firm to continue to follow the trail of the missing individual, if even to just report back that they are safe, and determine their current location, identifiable habits, and circumstances.
Missing Employees / Keeping it In-House
When we take this out of the personal relationship arena and into the corporate world, a different set of circumstances often surfaces. It is a fact that it is not too uncommon for corporate employees to get kidnapped while traveling on business in other countries. These are labeled as K & R cases – kidnap and ransom. Many happen ‘under the radar’, and there are reasons for this. If an executive of a major corporation is kidnapped, the company may not want law enforcement to be involved. Handled on their own, a ransom can be discretely paid, and the release acquired. Law enforcement, once contacted, would have controlled the situation and would be concerned with capturing the kidnappers in the process, and reluctant to exchange any ransom money. Also, from a public relations standpoint, a brand does not want to broadcast the fact that one of their employees was targeted and apprehended. This would negatively affect the brand in general, spark current employee safety concerns, and downgrade any potential employee’s view of the company and the evaluation of their security worldwide. For these reasons, when there are executive kidnappings, the corporation will often turn to security consulting companies to provide consultancy, and possibly even oversee the situation, to bring it to a successful and discrete resolution as soon as possible. These top international agencies have offices around the globe. Since they often employ agents who are native to the particular geographical region - with previous and established solid relationships with the law enforcement agencies in the countries they are assigned to - there is the ability to have all the necessary resources to rectify the unfortunate situation with a positive and successful solution. In most cases, the missing employee is safely returned once the kidnappers receive the money they are demanding.
Concern is also always there for what are deemed as ‘express kidnappings’. This could happen to travelers and employees unexpectedly – they might get into a taxi only to find that there is an armed person in the vehicle waiting for them. The targeted person is taken to a location where they are threatened and forced to withdraw ATM funds, get additional money wired, and separated from any valuables they are carrying. Many large companies actually have K & R insurance and are prepared for such situations when they occur. Additionally, to be proactive to protect their employees while working and traveling internationally, high-level protective agencies are usually engaged in an ongoing basis to thwart and prevent such occurrences from happening. Executive protection services can be basic or very advanced and can include risk assessments, security advance work and route surveys. Armed executive protection agents and teams can be used along with a mission control center, bullet resistant vehicles, and high-tech surveillance including GPS monitoring of traveling executives.
Kidnappings to Runaways
There are many types of missing person cases. Each one should be viewed individually, and assessed accordingly. Law enforcement has a great track record of resolving the majority of them. When the situation is complicated, atypical, or there are other elements including corporate concerns and executive safety – this higher level of urgency or intricacy often necessitate additional expertise and consultation, deeper layers of investigation, and more man power and resources dedicated to the positive resolution. The primary goal is the safety of the missing person, along with the professional handling of the entire situation, especially when discretion is of the utmost priority.