Earlier this year, we had our 500th “missing persons” case. In this post, I talk about how missing persons cases work: The three types of missing person cases, why law enforcement does not have time to work 80% of these cases, the relation of time to actually finding the missing person, and why we only take on about 1 in 10 cases.
Most potential clients call us with an emotional plea to help locate their love one who has simply “disappeared.” When I consult with a family, I make sure to define what kind of disappearance it is, because there are 3 types:
- In 80% of cases, the subject is over 18 years of age and is a “voluntary missing” person.
- 15% of cases involve true “runaways.” These subjects are less than 18 years of age, who have left their home for what they believe will be a greater life and greener pastures.
- The remaining 5% are adults who are missing involuntarily and the chance of injury, harm, death or never returning are very real.
Over the past 40 years, these percentages have remained surprisingly consistent.
The most unfortunate percentage and the single most common denominator is that in 99% of these cases the family waits too long to contact a private investigator experienced in these matter.
You must have a clear understanding that the law enforcement community usually has hundreds of these cases at any one time. This is certainly the case in most metropolitan areas. There is no doubt that Southern California leads the country with these types of cases, as the entertainment industry is a mecca in our backyard to many people. All ages come here to be movie stars. Local police departments do not have the resources, manpower or overtime to work most of these cases – especially when in 80% of cases, the person is over 18 and voluntarily missing.
Given this scenario, when and if you are faced with such a dilemma, it’s critical to call a private investigator within the first 24 hours or sooner. Most potential clients hesitate as they are “hopeful” that their loved one will return shortly. That generally never happens.
If you retain us 30 days after the persons has disappeared, the odds are not favorable that we can prevail. Here’s why:
First, the subject has a tremendous head start into making a different life for themselves be it in mainstream America or otherwise.
Second, after ten days, the person generally has a comfort factor with food, clothing and shelter. If they had a plan, and most do, they have executed the plan to the best of their ability and with no interference.
Third, law enforcement understandably has their plate full with other cases more current and will generally give more focus to where families have hired a private investigator to get a particular case to the head of the caseload pile.
Fourth, and probably most important, it is next to impossible to get the media to pay any attention to what they view as an “old case.” There is no reason to “call” them as there is no “hook” for them to publicize.
There are cases where the efforts of an Adult Missing Persons Unit of a police department and that of a world-class investigative agency will not prevail in locating a subject. You want to do as much as you can, as quickly as you can, so when you look back at your efforts, you have some peace and finality that you did all one could do.
We take only about 1 out of 10 missing person cases presented to our Southern California locations. The main reason is the person has simply been gone too long and the chances of our investigators prevailing are not high. There is also the awesome responsibility of taking on these cases. You have to be measured in your response, honest in your efforts and careful in the level of hope you provide. Although there is no comparison to what the family members are experiencing, the physical, mental and emotional drain on the investigators is palpable and real.