There is no easy way to go through the disappearance of a loved one; however, there are some tips we have compiled to help navigate this traumatic time. Please see the below suggestions on steps to take when a loved one goes missing.
First, Please Contact Your Local Law Enforcement Agency to File a Missing Persons Report
- At the time you file a report, please make sure you have as many details as possible about the circumstances as well as descriptive information about your loved one.
- Be sure to clearly state the reasons why you believe the individual’s absence is not voluntary.
- Make sure to get the contact information of the officer who takes the report so you can follow up, should you have additional questions.
- Ask for the agency case number so you can better reference the case in the future and/or request related reports.
- Confirm with the investigating agency that the case has been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. This allows all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to access certain information about the case.
- Make sure to contact any family / close friends that should be aware of your love one’s disappearance. The investigating agency may need to speak with the missing person's biological relatives at certain points in the investigation, so it is always a good idea to make sure they are aware.
How to Help After a Report is Filed
- Try to keep an open line of communication with the law enforcement officers you speak with. Make sure to share with them any additional information you come across and ask them if there are ways you can assist.
- Ask law enforcement before doing any of your own investigating (i.e. searching a missing person’s residence, looking through their social media accounts, etc.) This could be detrimental to the investigation.
- Reach out to the missing person’s friends, co-workers, school, neighbors, relatives or anyone else who may have information about the missing person. Getting the word out can be a very effective tool in missing person cases.
- Do not get rid of personal items of the missing person that may be of use to the investigators (i.e. clothes worn often, important mail, toothbrush / hairbrush, etc.) When in doubt, contact the investigating agency.
- Talk with the investigating agency on how to provide family DNA samples.
- Make a list of places the missing person often went to and the people they talked to the most.
- Provide law enforcement with information regarding the bank the missing person uses, who their dentist is, who their home internet service provider is and who their cell phone provider is.
- Retain the missing person’s cell phone and landline phone records, if available.
- If the missing person is found let investigators know.
How to Get the Word Out Regarding the Missing Person
- Before sharing any details about the investigation with the local or online community, talk with the investigating agency to make sure none of the information you plan to share could hinder the investigation.
- Create and distribute a missing person poster.
- Ask law enforcement what contact number should be included on the poster for their agency.
- Posters can be distributed at physical locations as well as in online communities.
- Contact local media outlets and ask them to share the missing person’s story.
- Contact the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System to have information regarding the missing adult posted on their online database. They can be contacted at namus.gov.
- If your missing loved one is a child, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to have information regarding the missing child posted on their national database. They can be contacted at missingkids.org.
- Look through our resource page to see if there are any additional services that might be of use to your specific circumstances.
- Be sure to lean on others during this time. It will be traumatic and having a support system can help tremendously.
- Be aware of those seeking money to assist in locating your loved. These people can include private investigators, psychics and others. Report information on these individuals to law enforcement if you are contacted.
- Media attention can be an extremely useful tool in missing persons’ cases; however, it can also take a toll on you and other family members. Feel free to set boundaries. You do not need to accept every media request or answer every question.
- If you have a loved one who is missing, you are considered a Co-victim of that crime. Victim Advocates are there to offer support, assistance, compassion and understanding. Either ask the investigating agency to be put in contact with their Victim Advocate or contact the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s Victim Assistance Program at 303-239-4649 (303-239-4312 Spanish).