My child is missing! Why aren't the police doing anything?
But wait. Before we go any further, May 25th is the 2024 National Missing Children's Day (Bet you didn’t even know this designation existed, right?). Coinciding with this date in 2023, the United States Marshals Service announced the results of its “Operation We Will Find You” initiative whereby the Marshals located more than 225 missing children during a ten-week intensely-focused effort. Along with this initiative, the Ohio State Attorney General usually releases its annual Missing Children Clearing House Report. The 2022 Report documents 15,555 children reported missing in Ohio, of which 14,940 were successfully located. That’s a 96% closure rate. But don’t believe for a minute that law enforcement is not continuing to pursue resolution to the remaining 4%. They are.
We need to make it very clear that law enforcement entities, at all levels, take the topic of missing persons – and missing children in particular – very seriously indeed. What’s more, such entities as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Doc Ellis Foundation, and the Ohio Special Response Team regularly align with law enforcement to supplement and assist in efforts to locate those who have gone astray.
So? What’s actually happening behind the scenes?
Unless this is an obvious kidnapping, the reality is that a majority of “lost” children are more than likely “misplaced”. They may have stormed or slinked off, but the tendency is to go hide out at a friend’s house. And, yes, they may be visiting the love of their life or a relative as well. In fact, don’t be surprised if the police ask to search your home and property. Altogether too many missing children have been located safely snuggled up in a closet, taking a nap.
In one case, family members frantically canvassed the homes of a young boy’s friends, knocking on doors to check and see if he was there. Hours into the search, the young man safely wandered back home. He and his friend were in the basement playing video games and didn’t hear anyone at the door.
Hidden Actions: You may not notice, but in addition to the intensive physical search surrounding the child’s last known location, the police are going to check out as many of your child’s friends as possible. They’ll be checking in with other families, school administrators, and social groups. Consider how many different school and out-of-school connections your child might have: clubs, associations, local hot spots, athletic venues, study groups, libraries, etc. Each and every one of these has to be checked and re-checked but you won't necessarily witness the activity. Recognize that a great deal of law enforcement time and expertise go into tracking down all this potentially critical information, yet a majority of this activity goes unnoticed by the public.
Here’s another item to consider: How well do you REALLY know your child? Any idea what they’re doing with their myriad of digital toys? As the search blossoms, police are going to dig into their digital footprint. That means their computer, cell phone, digital watch, and Internet accounts such as Facebook and Snapchat. Does your child keep a diary or journal? They’ll want to check through those as well. How about school notebooks? Those doodles in the margins can reveal some interesting tidbits about youthful thought processes.
And don’t forget the enormous number of surveillance cameras surrounding your home or near the point where the child was last seen. Keep in mind, too, that many schools have video on their buses as well as in and around school grounds. In some communities, law enforcement has access to FLOCK License Plate Reading Cameras. These units are much like the commonly encountered traffic enforcement cameras, but the FLOCK units are more frequently used as security monitoring devices. (In a recent instance a Cleveland suburb used FLOCK cameras to locate more than 20 missing persons.) So, essentially, yes, police will be scanning video images in an attempt to track your child’s movements up to the time of disappearance – and beyond.
Even amidst all the fear surrounding a missing child it’s important that parents recognize that tweens and teens are altogether too trustworthy. While relatively rare, the “bad guys” can and do have an enormous range of well-developed grooming scams to entice children away from home. Again, though, keep in mind that law enforcement and other nationwide experts are constantly on the lookout for missing and runaway youth. The odds of locating your child are VERY high, so never give up hope. In fact, if your child or other individual is missing, it’s critical that you aggressively advocate for continuing the search. (Read that sentence again and again. Make it your mantra until you achieve closure. Keep in mind that many law enforcement teams are massively overloaded and you may have to function as the proverbial squeaky wheel.)
Dumb Question: Any chance one of you forgot to pick Scooter up after school or from that club meeting? It happens quite frequently.
Dumb Questions 2 and 2A: Do you have a recent photo of your child? A seriously depressing and VERY large percentage of missing child postings do not include a photo of the individual. How is ANYONE expected to identify your child when you fail to include a photo in the police report?
Recent missing children post:
The Ohio Special Response Team (OSRT) regularly conducts area searches for missing people. If you can provide a specific point last seen, we can bring search K-9s and highly qualified search technicians to aid in your search. Unfortunately, once the missing individual moves into a private vehicle or other form of transportation, only law enforcement can provide the expertise necessary to conduct a search. However, once the vehicle is located, OSRT can once again pick up the “scent” of the missing individual and conduct an area search.
Members of the Ohio Special Response Team are trained by the United States Air Force and United States Coast Guard, the National Association for Search and Rescue, the Mountain Rescue Association, and other nationally recognized groups. Further, many OSRT personnel are qualified in Lost Person Behavioral Analysis, serve on county Child Abduction Response Teams, and attend regular training programs in Combating Human Trafficking and other related initiatives via Homeland Security, and the National Criminal Justice Training Center. Our K-9s are credentialed via the International Police Work Dog Association and others.
The Ohio Special Response Team is always on the lookout for potential members of our family of search operators and support personnel. Feel free to check us out at www.ohiospecialresponseteam.org, or on Facebook. You can also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at: https://www.missingkids.org/.