Unlike TV and the movies, there’s no time someone must wait before reporting a missing person.
According to Buchanan County Sheriff’s Investigator Mike Hess, Missouri’s statutes don’t require a waiting period. In fact, state statute requires law enforcement to act quickly in some cases.
“Under Missouri statue anyone under the age of 21 must be entered into the NCIC database within two hours of being reported missing,” Hess said.
The National Crime Information Center database only is accessible to law enforcement, Hess said. However, other databases are more widely accessible, like the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.
“It’s accessible by law enforcement, medical examiners and coroners and the families of missing people,” Hess said.
To report someone missing, Hess said whoever wants to submit the report should contact the pertinent law enforcement agency. After a report is taken, the missing persons details will be submitted to the relevant databases.
He said law enforcement sometimes works with outside organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to gather more information and to get the word out.
Locally, law enforcement often send out “Nixle Alerts” that include details about the missing person. In just the past week, the St. Joseph Police Department sent out alerts about two missing children, one of which is believed to be a runaway, according to police Captain Jeff Wilson.
Most cases of missing children are attributed to runaways, as many as 92%, according to NMEC. Some 4% are family abductions, with less than 1% being non-family abductions. In 2018, NMEC said 1 in 7 missing children were likely victims of sex trafficking.
According to NamUs, Missouri currently has 349 open missing persons cases.
No matter the age of a missing person, Hess said it’s important to file a report right away so that law enforcement can get to work.
“If we’re behind or if somebody waits two or three days then it’s more difficult to find (them) and that gap from where they are or where they could be has increased,” he said.