What is the definition of “Missing People”?
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) defines a missing person as: “anyone whose whereabouts is unknown whatever the circumstances of disappearance. They will be considered missing until located and their well-being or otherwise established”. (ACPO, 2005: 8).
Malcolm Payne (1995) took a different approach, and defined ‘going missing’ as:
“…a social situation in which a person is absent from their accustomed network of social and personal relationships to the extent that people within that network define the absence as interfering with the performance by that person of expected social responsibilities, leading to a situation in which members of the network feel obliged to search for the missing person and may institute official procedures to identify the person as missing” (Payne, 1995: 335).
There will be circumstances where a person is missing but police involvement may not be required, i.e. tracing a long lost relative. Appropriate action may be a referral to other relevant agencies that may provide assistance.
Why do they go missing?
There are several typologies of missing people have been developed to try and recognize the very different types of situations in which people go missing.
Missing persons can be categorized within one of the following groups:
Categories of missing persons
This is a person who is temporarily disorientated and would wish to be found, e.g., someone who as gone walking and does not know where they are.
Missing Person who has voluntarily gone missing:
This is someone who has control over their actions and who has decided upon a course of action, e.g., wishes to leave home or commit suicide.
Missing Person under the influence of a third party:
Someone who has gone missing against their will, e.g., abduction or murder victim.
However we will simplify to be two types of missing:
Missing Children and Missing Adults
Adults make up missing persons cases as well. The main difference between missing adults and missing children is what happens. Most of the time when a child disappears, they are considered to be kidnapped. This also happens with adults, but there are also many cases of missing adults in which there is no clear-cut idea that they were taken. Sometimes, adults are kidnapped in the same manner that children are; in these cases, there will be a suspect. However, sometimes adults simply go missing, which means that no one knows where they are. This does happen with children, but it happens more often with adults.
Missing Children are persons less than 18 years old who have disappeared. Missing Children is a child whose whereabouts are unknown to the child’s legal custodian, the circumstances of whose absence indicate that the child did not voluntarily leave the care and control of the custodian, and the taking of the child was not authorized by law. Or the child voluntarily left the care and control of the child’s legal custodian without the custodian’s consent and without intent to return. Children can be missing for a lot of different reasons. Here are a few reasons why Children go missing.
Abduction by a Parent
Sometimes children are abducted by one parent if the courts have awarded custody to the other parent. You might have been taken to another country and you might have been told lies about the other parent.
Abduction by a Stranger
A child who has been abducted at a young age might not know they were abducted and might have been lied to. But their real parents will be searching for them.
If children have run away from home then they are missing children and their parents and others are likely to be searching for them.
Adopted children sometimes want to try to find there biological parents and sometimes those parents are trying to find there lost children.
Taken from Parents
Children can be taken into care if a court says the parents can’t look after them properly. Maybe children have lost contact with their family because of this and their parents and relatives may be looking for them.
Missing Adults are person 18 years old or older who disappeared. Reasons for adults going missing are many and varied, voluntary and involuntary. Adults are free to choose to go missing, adults might decide to leave a relationship breakdown, or young adults who have left the family home because of conflict. However certain circumstances can make adults vulnerable to going missing. Here are a few reasons of Missing Adults.
Abduction (of a minor) by a non-custodial parent or other relative.
A physical or developmental disability
Mental illness: can cause someone to become lost, or they may not know how to identify
Anxiety and depression
Dementia: Adults with dementia have been identified as high-risk for going missing by advocates
for older adults.
Becoming a victim of crime, murder or kidnapping : body disguised, destroyed, or hidden
Human Trafficking: This trade is often under the control of criminal networks and organized
criminal gangs that will use extreme violence to ensure compliance. Substantial
payments made by migrants often have to be paid off in kind on arrival in the
USA. If the debt is defaulted on, violence is frequently used towards the migrant
or their family in their home country. They may also be forced into prostitution
or domestic slavery to pay off the debt.
Leaving home to start again in a new place under a new name
Seizure by government officials without due process of law
Suicide in a remote location or under an assumed name (to spare their families the suicide at
home, or to allow their deaths to be eventually declared in absentia)
Death by natural causes or accident far from home without identification.
Disappearance in order to take advantage of better employment or living conditions elsewhere
Sold into slavery, serfdom, sexual servitude, or other unfree labor To avoid discovery of a crime or
apprehension by law-enforcement authorities Joining a cult or other “religious” organization.
To escape domestic abuse
To avoid war or persecution during a genocide
To escape famine or natural disaster
For young people, family dysfunction and conflict, miscommunication, issues associated with
puberty and peer pressure, mental health issues, child abuse/neglect, poor coping skills and drug
and alcohol problems are amongst some of the reasons for going missing.