Missing Persons Investigation

Missing persons investigators use a variety of resources, including paying informants, searching the Internet and public databases, and studying police records to locate missing people. These professionals can be police detectives or private investigators.


There are different categories for missing person cases such as juvenile, endangered, disabled, other, involuntary and catastrophe. These classifications influence how a case is prioritized.

Human Sources

Missing persons investigations require a great deal of time and effort, and a person can disappear without a trace in a moment. A missing person’s case can become a matter of national or international interest and requires the cooperation of police agencies, family members, and communities.

The most important human resources in a missing-person investigation are the people who know the person best. Interviewing relatives, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances can provide useful insights into the person’s activities before they went missing. Diaries, emails, and online searches may also provide clues. Additionally, a police department can obtain search warrants to access a person’s phone records and social media accounts.

One of the most challenging aspects of a missing-person investigation is determining how to prioritize cases. Some persons may be at a greater risk of danger than others, and it is important to focus resources on the most critical situations. Those who are elderly or disabled, for example, should receive priority because they may have limited physical or cognitive capabilities.

Another way to improve the efficiency of a missing-person investigation is to use artificial intelligence (AI). AI can help investigators find and identify missing persons by using predictive analytics, geospatial analysis, and biometric recognition. In addition, it can help investigators process large amounts of data more quickly and accurately.

Database Searches

The PLID system incorporates existing information held by different agencies and institutions that would otherwise be kept in isolation from one another. This includes missing persons records from police agencies, hospitals, clinics and treatment institutions (including hospices and mental health facilities), as well as information sent to the PLID by family members.

It also includes records of unidentified or unknown human remains that have been collected by medical examiners or coroners. The iDMS database is available to all, although sensitive and confidential data can be restricted to certain users with a high level of security.

In addition to the iDMS database, NamUs is a searchable online resource that compiles and publishes unidentified and missing person cases. Unlike NCIC, which is only accessible to vetted criminal justice agency users, NamUs allows the public to search for information and case documents.

The iDMS and NamUs systems provide opportunities to cross-reference information from multiple sources and improve the research and identification process. This is especially beneficial for identifying long-term missing persons and reunifying families with the bodies of their loved ones. In some cases, a family member may be able to provide dental or other information that will positively identify an unknown body. This will help to narrow down the search for the missing person and provide answers. The iDMS system and the NamUs service are examples of ways that ICMP works with government authorities to share this state-of-the-art database technology.

Flow Charts

Flow diagrams are easy-to-understand diagrams that help you document a process. They have a variety of shapes, such as elongated circles and rectangles, to represent start and end points. They also have arrows to show direction and instructions. In addition, flow charts use color to distinguish different steps. For example, red arrows indicate that an activity is in progress while blue ones signify that it is complete.

Ideally, the investigation should begin with a full statement from the person reporting the missing person and any other relevant individuals. It is recommended that initial searches are conducted with the assistance of specialist officers, if possible. In addition, information should be obtained about the missing individual’s social media presence and a search should be made of their home.

The risk assessment should be updated regularly and the decision whether to deploy police resources should be based on the latest available information. The IO should seek advice as necessary from a PolSA when developing the search strategy. Where possible, the investigation should be reviewed at daily management meetings. The ownership of the investigation should be transferred between shifts, taking into account any new information or lines of enquiry that may arise. This is important, as judgements on how a case should be handled in the first few hours after it is reported can have a significant impact on the outcome.


Missing persons investigators use a wide array of resources to locate people who have gone missing. They may pay informants, search public records and the Internet, interview witnesses, and perform background checks to find clues about a person’s whereabouts. They also document all their activities and keep accurate records to help them find the missing person. They are often forensically trained, and most law enforcement agencies require them to have a bachelor’s degree and some type of police or criminal justice training.

Missing person investigations must be carefully planned and documented, with a clear statement of the risk assessment that a case is being set against. This should be reviewed regularly, and the next duty supervisor should be fully briefed. An initial report should be made to the Missing persons Clearinghouse, which is a central database that allows police officers across the country to share information about missing children and adults.

It is important that the family of the missing person and their representatives are kept up to date on the progress of the investigation. This is particularly important in the early stages of an investigation, when they may be worried about their loved one’s well-being. It is also important to maintain communication with the media, which can be a useful tool in generating leads about a missing person.