Guide to Social Awareness for Missing Persons

Guide to Social Awareness for Missing Persons

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When a child or a loved one goes missing, immediately life changes as you know it, your entire world seems to fall apart. You feel isolated, confused and desperate and may feel you have nowhere to turn for help and support. 

Life becomes an emotional roller coaster for those left behind, leaving you emotionally vulnerable. Feelings of sadness, loss, guilt and anger are normal but leave you feeling emotionally drained.

Longing for direction, most families who have experienced a child or loved one missing say they wished they had a handbook to tell them what to do, what to expect, and how to respond. 

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(Statement by Colleen Nick, mother of Morgan Nick, missing since June 9, 1995. Photo courtesy of OJJDP.)

The Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) created a handbook “When Your Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide” providing direction to parents of missing children. It is an invaluable resource for families. However, since it was created, there have been many advancements in methods to distribute fliers and raise public awareness of missing persons.

With a missing person, it is imperative to gain public attention. Experts agree, every time you share information with the public, it creates the potential to generate that one lead law enforcement needs to bring that person home safe. 

Much of the time, creating public awareness is a cooperative effort between the families of the missing person, media, and law enforcement. However, getting each to work cohesively with the other is sometimes difficult and much of the burden of creating social awareness falls on the family.

Social Media’s Role in Finding Missing Persons

Government agencies and police are increasingly using social media to help find missing persons. In fact, New York City Police Department launched a social media campaign to include the public in ongoing investigations, to both find missing persons and catch criminals.

“If a person goes missing, commands make initial notifications on social media. Then, posters are made,” said Zachary Tumin, deputy commissioner for strategic initiatives and leader of the NYPD’s social media efforts. “As that information gets retweeted by police and the public, word spreads very quickly to be on the lookout for that missing person.”

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(NYPD actively utilizes Facebook and Twitter to search for missing persons.) 

NYPD’s Facebook page currently has “822,054 Likes” with no sign of slowing down.  

Prior to social media, distribution of information was always limited by limited geographic outreach, with missing person pages commonly only posted within the community the person went missing. 

With social media platforms, it changed the landscape of searching for missing persons. Facebook has 2.37 billion users in 2019, Twitter 126 million daily users, and Instagram over 800 million, making it the ideal place to generate leads for law enforcement.

Mystery and misery linger in a missing person case. Many think the number of missing persons has risen in missing person cases, but experts say it is thanks to social media, not an actual increase in cases. “Missing persons have always been there, of course, but due to social media, the cases are more widespread,” said Ray Wagner, Director of Relations for Crimestoppers. 

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(Missing in Arizona’s post on Facebook for Elizabeth Breck who vanished from Tucson, Arizona, on January 13, 2019.)

Nothing compares to sharing information using social media platforms. The information posted is immediately available throughout the country, and the world. 

Combining Social Media with News Media 

Working with local and national media is also a critical component of searching for a missing person as news stories also have the long-time been proven to generate leads. 

Here are some guidelines to follow when working with news media when a person is missing:

  1. It is important to always speak to the investigating law enforcement agency prior to doing a news interview so as not to compromise an investigation. It is common for law enforcement to request minimal information about an investigation be shared in a news interview to protect their case, especially if a nonfamily abduction is suspected.
  2. Consider using a public relations firm. Sometimes costly, they do have expertise in constructing press releases and attracting media interest. Try obtaining services pro bono. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
  3. Appoint a family spokesperson, someone capable of speaking publicly and comfortable being in the public eye.
  4. Keeping the media interested requires pulling at “heart strings” so plan on doing interviews on birthdays, anniversary dates, and holidays.
  5. Remember, just because they ask a question, doesn’t mean you have to answer it.

Utilization of Social Media Platforms

Working with law enforcement cannot be over-emphasized. While using social media platforms gives you instant ability to mass communicate, and can be a source of significant support, it can also be a place where you may be scrutinized or asked many questions. Aside from being time consuming, the public has a tendency to ask questions, and it is important for you to only stick with the facts of an investigation without leaking tidbits of information by identifying a perpetrator or details of the investigation.

Utilizing any social network platform can be emotionally taxing, but worth utilizing when a family member is missing, and life may hang in the balance.

Available Platforms

There are several social media platforms that can help you widen your search, stay organized and reach various audiences. 

  • Facebook helps raise social awareness, fundraise, organize events and keep your social network apprised of any new developments. 
  • YouTube can help keep news coverage organized and a quick and effective way to post your media on other network platforms, involving people in your efforts. 
  • Twitter can reach very large audiences to include politicians, celebrities and news stations.
  • Instagram can help with sharing photographs and “behind the scenes” images, while connecting with a younger audience that is very socially aware and involved. 
  • Blogger or any blogging platform, can help by giving you a place to vent your everyday frustrations and emotions while sharing progress with readers.  

Setting up Storage 

When a love one is missing you can find yourself being asked over and over again for the same information and photographs of your loved one. 

It is advisable to use a cloud content storage like Dropbox or Google Documents where you can create different folders or files such as press releases, letters, and high-quality photographs that media and other organizations can use to help raise public awareness.  Also, utilizing “content storage” saves time and frustration when trying to email high resolution images. 

Dropbox is free and offers up to 2GB of storage and Google Documents is free and offers 15GB of storage (to include emails and attachments). 

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Using Facebook

  1. Appoint a trusted Administrator(s) to help you with the page. 
  2. Set up a “Page” in Facebook and choose a name consistent with the purpose such as “FIND BRYCE LASPISA” or “MISSING SARAH GALLOWAY.” Choose something and use both first and last name of the missing person. 
  3. Use high-quality photographs when possible and use a picture of the missing person as a profile picture. 
  4. Include a brief description of the missing person to include where they were last seen, along with law enforcement’s contact number or hotline. 
  5. Communicate clearly and succinctly in all posts. 
  6. Post at times the most people are going to see your posts, not in the middle of the night. According to a Buffer study, the best times of post on Facebook is between 1-3 p.m. during the week and on Saturdays, with Thursdays and Fridays having the most engagement. 
  7. Post consistently and frequently with “Calls to Action” such as asking people to share your post (and ask their friends to share), or ask they use a photo of the missing person flier as their profile picture for a week. 
  8. Always try to stay positive. The tone of your post matters. 
  9. Provides updates when possible and post any media interviews or links to television shows that may have profiled the missing person.
  10. Don’t feel obligated to respond to any comment or message.

With social media, comes the potential for negative comments, messages or posts from users. Never feel the need to respond to negative correspondence or comments, just delete or hide negative comments as soon as you can. 

Lastly, you can also pay for advertising on Facebook. 

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Advertising on Facebook 

Everyone’s Facebook account comes with the ability to run ads. With Facebook Advertising, you can target specific locations the missing person may be most likely to be in, to include entire cities to just parts of a city. You can also target specific age groups and should be done as quickly as possible if you are able to afford it.

Here is a website  that can help. A great article “How to Use Facebook As in the Search for a Missing Person” is also an excellent resource.

If not using a service to help in this endeavor, try to become familiar with Facebook’s advertising program as soon as possible. 

Create a Facebook Ads account. You can visit Facebook’s “Get Help For Your Facebook Ads” or visit Buffer’s “Best Time to Post on Facebook: A Complete Guide” for more information. 

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  • Choose your objective. These four categories can help you in the search for a missing loved one.  
  1. Promote your page
  2. Boost your posts
  3. Increase your reach
  4. Raise attendance at your events
  • Define your audience. 
  1. Location. Start with country and state.
  2. Age. Choose an age range. It is advisable to keep this broad to reach people of all ages (18-65+). 
  3. Language. Choose English if in the United States. 
  • Define your budget. 
  1. Daily: a daily budget is the maximum amount your will spend per day during the timespan of your ad. 
  2. Lifetime: a longer-term budget you will spend during the lifetime of the ad. 
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  • Create new ad
  1. Choose your ad format (above).
  2. Add content.
  3. You get 90 characters of text to concisely share your message.  
  4. Use only high-quality images or video. 
  5. Use a name like “Have You Seen This Missing Person” or similar. 
  • Image specs: 
  • Recommended image size: 1200 x 628 pixels
  • Image ratio: 1.91:1
  • To maximize ad delivery, use an image that contains little or no overlaid text.
  • Video specs: 
  • Format: .MOV or .MP4 files
  • Resolution: at least 720p
  • File size: 2.3 GB max.
  • Recommended aspect ratio: widescreen (16:9)
  • Facebook: 60 minutes max.

Most importantly, when using Facebook or any social media platform, check your messages and comments frequently so if someone contacts you with information you can forward it to law enforcement immediately. 

Twitter

Twitter is a great social media platform to reach masses of people. There are more than 500 million Tweets per day on Twitter. 

Set up a new account.

  1. Like Facebook, choose a name consistent with the purpose.
  2. Use a photograph of the missing person as a profile picture. 
  3. Tweet links to news coverage, interviews, and articles. 
  4. Use hash tags such as #Missing #State #Missing Person’s Name 
  5. Tweet to local and national media.
  6. Tweet to celebrities, both local and national.
  7. Keep your tweets brief. 
  8. Respond when someone tweets to you.
  9. Follow similar pages.

Like Facebook and all social media platforms, it matters when you post on Twitter. 

According to American Marketing Association, the best time to post on Twitter is Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 a.m., with most consistent engagement occurring Mon-Friday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Other studies have shown Mon-Friday between 12-3 p.m. is the best time. Saturday is the worst day to post and has least engagement.

While building followers and social media presence takes time, there are strategies and techniques you can use to increase your engagement and get more clicks.

Twitter engagement is when someone engages with the content that you post such as favoriting your tweet, retweeting your tweet, responding to your tweet or mentioning you in a separate tweet. 

It is also important that you engage with other users’ content with likes, comments and retweets. When you engage with another user’s content, they will be more likely to pay attention to what you are posting too. This works across all social media platforms. 

In addition, leverage other feeds and encourage your followers on Facebook and other platforms to follow you on Twitter and visa versa.

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Learning Experience

Using social network platforms to find missing persons is still relatively new and is no doubt a learning process. One only needs to look at the numbers in order to gauge the success. 

It is advisable to follow other families who have missing persons, advocacy agencies, and shows like In Pursuit with John Walsh or Vanished to gain ideas for successful posts and make valuable connections.  

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is a 501c3 nonprofit based in Arlington, Virginia, and the largest missing child agency in the country. With over 655,000 people following their activity it is hard to ignore the agency’s social impact. 

Again, try not to be discouraged as you try to grow your social networks and don’t let running the various platforms consume you. Again, it is recommended you share these tasks with other family members or friends that can assist you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

As said before, using social media is a learning experience, but rest assured you will get better as you go along. Remember HOPE is the most important thing to hold onto.

How Missing Person Organizations Benefit Us All

How Missing Person Organizations Benefit Us All

Tragedies can affect communities and society as a whole. Sometimes it only takes one person to make a difference that impacts us all.

Missing Person organizations support families in their time of crisis, and missing person investigators help them get the support they need.
(Morgan Nick vanished on June 9, 1995, in the small town of Alma, Ark.)

It was 24 years ago, on June 9, 1995, that a little girl vanished at a Little League baseball game in the small town of Alma, Ark., within the River Valley at the edge of the majestic Ozark Mountains. Beautiful Morgan Chauntel Nick, age 6, with long blonde hair and blue eyes has not been seen since.

Morgan Nick is the eldest of three other children. She loved cats and according to her mother Colleen Nick, she was a shy little girl. A Girl Scout, Morgan loved bubble gum and said she wanted to be a doctor or a circus performer when she grew up.

(The baseball park in Alma, Ark., where Morgan Nick vanished.)

The evening of her disappearance, a friend of the Nick family had invited them to a baseball game about 30 minutes away. Colleen told Dateline; the game started late at approximately 9:00 p.m. that night.

Morgan sat in the bleachers with her mom nearly the entirety of the game but towards the end, two kids, a boy and a girl, a few years older than Morgan, asked if Morgan could go catch fireflies with them.

Colleen recalls initially telling Morgan no, but other parents told the worried mother that the kids play in the parking lot all of the time and would be safe.

Colleen ended up telling Morgan she could go play with the other children. “She threw her arms around my neck, kissed my cheek, then the kids all ran out to the parking lot,” said Colleen. “I could turn my head and see she was right there in sight. I checked on them three or four times.”

At the end of the baseball game, Colleen watched as the team walked off the field, momentarily looking away from Morgan who was playing behind the bleachers. When she turned around, she could see the two other children, but Morgan was no longer with them.

Colleen asked the children where Morgan was, and they told her Morgan was at her car emptying sand out of her shoes. “Already, when I couldn’t see Morgan, my heart started beating really fast,” Colleen said in a Dateline interview. “We were somewhere we hadn’t been before. She wouldn’t go anywhere by herself, and there wasn’t even anywhere to go,” Colleen said. “There was no concession stands, no bathrooms.”

Confusion and panic set in for Colleen.

Within minutes a spectator called the police to report Morgan missing. Police responded within six minutes.

Chief Russell White of the Alma Police Department told Dateline that the initial officer on the scene immediately suspected “we might have a bigger problem.” “They did have a lot of manpower or resources, but they did a whole lot right that first night,” Colleen said.

“The other two kids that were playing with Morgan separately told the police about a creepy man in a red pick-up truck with a white camper shell on the back,” Colleen said.

Authorities immediately began an intensive investigation.

“We reached out for help from local agencies, the state police, the FBI,” Chief White said. “We were running a pretty big crew. The FBI brought in lots of extra people and resources and we did not have, like a computer system that could handle this kind of case, which helped tremendously.”

According to Colleen, Morgan’s case files fill up an entire room at the police department. “We have tons of tips coming in every week,” Chief White said. “It’s very unusual for a 24-year-old case to still have so many leads.”

Despite the thousands of leads received in Morgan’s case, she remains missing.

(Colleen Nick, mother of 6-year-old Morgan Nick who vanished June 9, 1995, from Alma, Ark.)

A Mother Fights Back

“She’s not a number. She’s not a statistic. She’s not a case file. She is a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a friend. And she is someone worth fighting for,” Colleen told Dateline. “If you’re not on the front line fighting for your daughter, no one else will. So, it is my job to make sure she never gets lost. Until someone can prove to me that Morgan is not coming home, then I am going to fight for her.”

In the years following Morgan’s disappearance, Colleen started the Morgan Nick Foundation to help prevent other families from going through what she has experienced, to raise awareness of other missing children, and educate the public on safety for children. The foundation also provides crucial support to other families of missing children.

Over the years Colleen has received a countless number of recognitions and awards from the FBI, state of Arkansas, to the International Homicide Investigator’s Association, for her work throughout the state of Arkansas throughout the country.

“When something so tragic happens to your child, there is a need to do something of great value,” said Colleen. “We are trying to fill the gap that wasn’t filled when we needed it the most.”

24 years later, Colleen continues to selflessly work within her community and nationwide to the benefit of families and children throughout the country.

The National Impact of John Walsh

(Adam Walsh, age 6, who was abducted from a Sears department store and murdered July 27, 1981, in Hollywood, Fla.)

We often forget there is a personal story behind many monumental efforts in this nation and John Walsh is certainly the epitome.

Adam Walsh, age 6, was a little boy whose disappearance and murder changed the way society looked at missing children.

On the afternoon of July 27, 1981, Adam’s mother took him shopping at a local mall in Hollywood, Fla. Reve Walsh had wanted to inquire about the price of a lamp at the Sears department store.

Momentarily, Reve left Adam at an Atari video game display where several other little boys were taking turns playing on the display. When Reve returned, she couldn’t find Adam or the other boys and was told by the store manager that the security guard had asked them all to leave the store.

Adam was paged over the intercom as his mother searched the store and mall for about an hour. She then called the Hollywood Police Department at approximately 1:55 p.m. to report Adam missing.

Tragically, on August 10, 1981, a severed head of a child was found in a drainage canal alongside the Florida Turnpike in Vero Beach, about 130 miles from Hollywood. It was confirmed it was Adam. His body has never been found.

(John Walsh, creator and host of America’s Most Wanted which first aired in 1988. Photo courtesy of Fox 5 News.)

A Legacy

Early on, Adam’s parents John and Reve Walsh were critical of the police investigation which led to John’s anti-crime activism and the creation of America’s Most Wanted which he is well known for.

Lesser known is his impact on laws and organizations for missing children. During the 1980s, John and other child advocates lobbied Congress to pass a law that would protect missing children and educate the public on the importance of child safety resulting in the Missing Children’s Assistance Act and the first national clearinghouse of information for missing children.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

In 1984, the United States Congress passed the Missing Children’s Assistance Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan creating the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and a 24-hour hotline 1-800-THE-LOST.

Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, NCMEC has regional office in California, Florida, New York and Texas.

According to NCMEC, in 2018 there were 424,066 entries of missing children in the FBI National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

35 years later, NCMEC provides support to thousands of families of missing children each year, missing children’s case management, provides training to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, and offers numerous educational programs that fight child exploitation, sex trafficking, and provides critical information to keep our children safe.

Black & Missing Foundation

Tamika Huston vanished into thin air on or around May 27, 2004, from Spartanburg, S.C. and subsequently found murdered.

Spartanburg was Derrica Wilson’s hometown and she recalls watching as Tamika’s family struggled to gain any media coverage on a local or national level while Tamika was missing. A few months later, Natalee Holloway – a white woman – went missing and dominated news headlines, becoming a household name.

“It was heartbreaking to see the difference in the media attention these two cases were getting,” Derrica told Jet Magazine.

(Natalie (left) and Derrica Wilson, co-founders of Black and Missing Foundation. Photo courtesy of Jet Magazine.)

Derrica and her sister-in-law Natalie decided to team up to ensure other families did not face the obscurity that Tamika’s family had experienced. “We combined our professional backgrounds – mine in law enforcement and Natalie’s in media – to create an organization that joins the very important elements in the field of missing persons,” said Derrica.

Founded in 2008, a veteran law enforcement official and a public relations specialist began channeling their skills for a greater good.

Eleven years later, Black and Missing Foundation has become the primary voice for minority missing providing a platform of hope for the overwhelming number of missing persons of color.

AMBER Alert

(Amber Hagerman was abducted and murdered on January 13, 1996, in Arlington, Texas.)

On the afternoon of January 13, 1996, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was last seen riding her bike in a parking lot near her home in Arlington, Texas. A witness reported seeing a man in a black, flat-bed truck snatch Amber from her bicycle.

Four days later, Amber’s body was found in a creek approximately 3.2 miles from her home. Her murder remains unsolved.

Area residents were outraged and began calling radio and television stations to vent their anger and to also offer suggestions to prevent such crimes in the future. One resident, Diana Simone suggested utilizing the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to notify the public when a child has been abducted so the public could also assist in the search. Simone followed up with a letter, with her only request to ensure the program would be dedicated to Amber Hagerman.

The program was eventually taken to NCMEC with a request to implement a national initiative that would eventually become known as the AMBER Alert. What began as a local effort in the area of the Dallas-Fort Worth area has grown into a seamless system used by every state in the country. Since the inception of the program in 1996, through December 31, 2018, 956 children have been safely recovered specifically as a result of an AMBER Alert being issued.

 “When something so tragic happens to your child, there is a need to do something of great value,” as Colleen said. “We are trying to fill the gap that wasn’t filled when we needed it the most.” Most certainly, the advancements made in the last 35 years are proof the efforts of one person can make a difference.

Missing Persons: How to Set Up a GoFundMe Campaign

Missing Persons: How to Set Up a GoFundMe Campaign

One type of campaign that is becoming more and more vital is GoFundMe campaigns for missing persons.

The development of crowd-funding platforms such as GoFundMe has elevated an individual’s ability to see their financial goals realized. Whether the goal is retaining support for a passion project, or simply garnering a smaller sum to pull through a financial crisis or emergency, crowd-funding is making it all possible. One type of campaign that is becoming more and more vital is GoFundMe campaigns for missing persons.

When a person is reported missing, law enforcement jumps on the case to follow up on hot leads, interview witnesses, and gather evidence. While these services are obviously a public service, it’s not uncommon for the families of missing persons to also hire a private investigator to conduct a tandem investigation with law enforcement. Private investigators possess a level of autonomy and flexibility that law enforcement does not, and this can further progress on the case. Unless the private investigator agrees to do the investigation pro-bono, the investigation will need funding, and GoFundMe is just one of the many platforms where an investigation can be crowd-funded.

Signing up for GoFundMe is completely free, and setting up a campaign is blessedly easy. Here is a step-by-step guide to setting up a GoFundMe for a missing person.

  1. Choosing an email address
    • We all have that extra email address for spam and other platforms so we don’t clutter up our primary email inbox. However, in the case of a GoFundMe account, it’s always best to use a primary email address. GoFundMe allows you to use the email associated with your Facebook account for easier signup, but it’s imperative that you confirm that you still have access to that email address before you begin.
  2. Creating your campaign
    • After setting up the account, the next step is very simple. Just select ‘start a new campaign.’ GoFundMe allows individual users to have as many as 5 active campaigns running simultaneously.
    • When deciding on campaign goals, it’s important to remain realistic. You want an attainable amount for your specific goal. While the proposed retainer may be different depending on the private investigation firm you plan to hire, $10,000 is always a good starting target sum. GoFundMe allows you to edit the goal of the campaign, increasing or decreasing the goal as needed.
    • Creating a campaign title is crucial, because it is often the first thing potential donors will see when they see the campaign on social media or another promotional platform. It must be 35 characters or less, so every letter counts.
    • You must decide if you’re raising funds as an individual or as a team. In the case of many missing person campaigns, the campaign will be created and managed by between 1-3 members of the missing person’s family. If you are a private investigation firm managing a crowd-funding campaign, you’ll want to select the option to raise funds as a team. Like many aspects of the campaign, these things can be edited after the creation of the campaign.
  3. Adding a photo and a story
    • After you’ve agreed to GoFundMe’s terms and conditions, you’ll need to select a campaign image. In the case of a missing person, just like a poster, you’ll want to use a recent photo of the missing person, preferably smiling, and ideally in the outfit they were wearing when they were last seen. It’s also important that you include the same information you would include on a missing person’s poster, including their full name, physical description, any medical conditions, and the circumstances of their disappearance. GoFundMe denotes effective stories as ones that are incredibly descriptive and straightforward about why you are raising money and how the money will be spent. In the case of missing persons, these aspects are as straightforward as they come. Because of the potential for scams surrounding crowdfunding campaigns of all kinds, you’ll want to be transparent about your relationship to the missing person and the name of the investigating entity where the funds will go. The more personal you make the story, the more likely you are to receive a donation to the campaign.
  4. Sharing the campaign
    • You’ve made the campaign, but it won’t incur donations by just sitting there—you have to share it. Social media is one of the greatest tools available in a missing persons campaign. Of all the social media platforms, Facebook yields one of the highest levels of exposure to social media users. Facebook also has an interface that is designed for sharing contact quickly and easily. Twitter is an excellent platform to get the name of your missing person trending under a hashtag and increase potential donations. Don’t’ forget Instagram, where the missing person’s photo will be prominent.
  5. Continue to share
    • Social media is powerful, but you will only get out of it what you put into it. After the initial creation and sharing of the campaign, it’s important that you make a consistent, repetitive effort to share the campaign on all available platforms.
Fast Facts on Missing Children

Fast Facts on Missing Children

Americans are captivated by missing child stories, haunted by the nagging specter of “What if this happened to my child?”

The year 2018 was punctuated by a handful of missing child cases that were covered by mainstream media, including Jayme Closs, Mollie Tibbetts, and Karlie Gusé. Interest in missing children cases continues to grow with the production of documentaries and docuseries about famous missing child cases, like Madeline McCann and Jan Broberg. This cultivated curiosity can only benefit the ultimate goal of keeping a missing person’s face in the public eye in the interest of unearthing unexplored leads in their cases. Here is a list of fast facts about missing child cases to inform coverage in the media and online.

Missing Children

Law enforcement in the United States received reports of 424,066 missing children in 2018.

The FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File states that as of December 31st, 2018, there were 85,459 active missing person records in which children under the age of 18 account for 34%.

It’s estimated that 1,435 kidnappings occur every year, but due in large part to a majority of those being familial abductions, not all have likely been reported.

The Second National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children released by the Department of Justice in 2002, spanning the years of 1997-1999, reported that 203,900 of the 797,500 reported missing children in a one-year period were abducted by family members, and 58,200 were abducted by non-relatives. 115 of those reported cases were classified as stranger abductions.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, since 1965, there have been 325 reported infant abductions in the United States. Of those abducted children, 140 were taken from healthcare facilities, 138 were taken from the home, and 47 were abducted from other locations. Of those abducted infants, 16 remain missing.

Amber Alerts

Not all missing minors and children qualify for Amber Alerts. America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response Alerts are emergency messages broadcast when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in imminent danger. The broadcasts include information about the child and the abductor, including physical descriptions as well as information about the abductor’s vehicle—which could lead to the child’s recovery. Missing children and teenagers who are classified as “runaways” may not qualify for an Amber Alert because there is no evidence of abduction.

When people think of abductions, they likely think of stranger danger and violent attacks. However, in 2016, 60% of all AMBER Alerts that were issued were for abductions committed by a family member.

Since 1997, the AMBER Alert Program has been responsible for the safe recovery of 957 children.

The AMBER Alert system was named for Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and killed in 1996.

Missing Children in Media

Etan Patz, a six-year-old boy who disappeared on his way to his bus stop in Manhattan, was one of the first missing children to be featured on a milk carton.

Media coverage of missing child cases has been elevated in recent years by American television personality John Walsh, host of America’s Most Wanted. John Walsh became an anti-crime advocate following the disappearance and murder of his son, Adam Walsh, in 1981.

The disappearance of 3-year-old Madeline McCann is often regarded as one of the highest-profile missing child cases globally.

Sex Trafficking

NCMEC received 23,500 reports of endangered runaways in 2018. One in seven of those children were estimated to be victims of sex trafficking.

The average age of a child sex trafficking victim is 15 years old, according to NCMEC reports.

Child sex trafficking has been reported in every single state in the United States.

The age group of children targeted by strangers in abductions are female children aged 12-17. This aligns with approximate age range of minor children targeted for sex trafficking.

Online predators

The average minor victim of online predatory behavior is 15 years of age.

Of the predators targeting minor victims online, 82% are male, 9% are female, and 9% could not be determined.

Online predators most commonly target children on social media, photo sharing platforms, and video gaming platforms.

Autism & wandering

Between 2007 and 2017, 952 children with autism were reported missing to NCMEC. In 61% of cases, those children were classified as “endangered runaways” or lost, injured, or otherwise missing (20%).

Almost half of the cases of children were autism reported (48%) were recovered within one day of going missing, and 74% were recovered within 7 days.

We can help…

If your child has gone missing, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free consultation and learn how our expertise and experience can provide you answers in the search for your missing child. Call 317-951-1100, or visit us online at www.lauthmissingpersons.com

How to Write a Press Release

How to Write a Press Release

When you are in the midst of a traumatic experience, it’s hard to look beyond the immediate crisis.

When a loved one goes missing, it’s hard to think about issuing a press release and why it may be so important to learn in the initial days folmlowing the missing person report.

How important is a press release when some we love goes missing?

Digital communication is the most used form of communication in the United States. When a person goes missing, it becomes paramount to notify as many people as possible in order to generate leads for law enforcement, and finding missing persons is a cooperative effort between law enforcement, media and families of missing persons.

Press releases and other forms of digital communication offer the important opportunity to provide important details about the case to thousands of people, along with disseminating descriptive information and photographs of the missing person. In addition, an effective missing person press release becomes the most important form of communication between a victim family and the news media.

Some may have the resources to hire a professional to write a press release. While this is a great option, there are other considerations one must be aware of and familiar with to write an effective and professional press release while also preserving the integrity of the case for law enforcement, so as not to compromise an investigation.

When writing a press release, samples can be difficult to find and replicate. Honestly, they can be tough to write because few people understand their structure. Exceptional press releases all contain certain elements. These elements should be present in all press releases written.

When you know what to include in your press release, along with how to structure it, your release will be more legible, credible, and useful for readers.

Following are foundational tips to help guide you through the process of writing a press release for a missing person case.

  • If you are ready for your press release to go public, use the words “IMMEDIATE RELEASE” at the top of the press release. If the release needs to be held for a day or two put “HOLD RELEASE UNTIL” and add a date.
  • All words in your headline should be in Title Case, meaning the words in your headline should be capitalized except for prepositions and words under four letters.
  • Include the City, State, Month, Day and Year. Press releases are meant for wide audiences, but it is also important to connect them with your geographical location and including your local information is critical.
  • Throughout your press release try to use keywords such as missing person, missing adult, missing child, abduction, disappearance, kidnapping, and others depending upon the circumstances of the disappearance. It is not necessary to go overboard with the use of keywords: just include them naturally throughout the release.
  • Write a summary paragraph to help readers immediately understand to help journalists understand what the press release is about so they can make a decision whether to cover the story or not. The who, what, where, when and why should all be included in a press release. A summary paragraph must be interesting and compelling to readers so use it to include the most relevant information, while laying out the key points of the press release.
  • Six Elements need to be included.
  • Who. Who is the press release about? Who are the main players?
  • What. What is the topic of the press release? Why should readers care about the release?
  • Why. Why are you sending out the release?
  • When. When is the subject of the release taking place?
  • Where. Where is the activity taking place?
  • How. How does the subject of your release provide value? How does it help your readers?
  • Finish It Up with a Compelling Last Paragraph

Sample Release

Contact: Mandy Harris

Telephone 602-000-0000

Email: manyharris101@gmail.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Family and Police Seeking Information About Jane Doe Who Vanished from a Waltan Parking Lot

Phoenix, Ariz. April 15, 2019/ Today, Phoenix Police Department announced they are searching for information from the public about the disappearance of Jane Doe, 21, who mysteriously vanished after a north Phoenix parking lot on Sunday evening. At an upcoming press conference, police, along with family members of Jane Doe will be sharing information with the public to help locating the missing Arizona State University student.

Sunday, April 15, 2019, at approximately 6 p.m. Jane Doe was seen on a security camera entering the Waltan store located at 19th Avenue and Bell Road. She proceeded to purchase a couple items and left within ten minutes.  Upon leaving, Jane Doe walked to the northwest side of the parking lot where her white 2014 Honda Civic was parked. There, an unidentified male, possibly white or Hispanic, can be seen on the security footage speaking to Jane Doe who continued to get into her vehicle and leave through the west entrance. Moments later, a 2001-2003 maroon Dodge Durango with the same man driving was seen slowly following the white Honda Civic out of the parking lot heading north on 19th Avenue. The maroon Dodge Durango is also being sought by police in several other attempted abductions.

A press conference is scheduled on Tuesday April 16, 2019, in the Waltan Parking lot where Jane Doe was last seen. Accompanied by the Phoenix Police Department, Jane Doe’s two adult sisters, Mandy Harris and Leah Martin, will speak to reporters about the search for their baby sister. 

In addition to discussing the case of Jane Doe, Phoenix Police is expected to issue a warning to citizens regarding the maroon Dodge Durango suspected in the attempted abductions of several other women in the North Valley. 

For information please call Mandy Harris at 602-000-000.

# End of Release #

How to Create a Missing Person Flyer

How to Create a Missing Person Flyer

A missing person poster can be our first awareness of a famous missing person case. When we see missing person cases in the news, we become fascinated on an exponential scale. This includes media coverage, their missing persons flyer, or podcasts about their disappearance. The farther away we are positioned from a missing person case—whether it’s geographically or inter-personally—the more fascinated we are, like those who rubberneck to see the aftermath of a terrible accident. A person in Indianapolis who reads all of the news coverage about the Jayme Closs case in Wisconsin might do so without any sense of paranoia, because it’s happening 400 miles away, and not in their own lives. Recent statistics regarding the number of open or unsolved missing person cases in the United States are approaching 90,000, fluctuating week to week. That may sound like a pretty comfortable number to some individuals. It makes the odds of you or someone you love going missing sound pretty slim. The fact of the matter is anyone could have a loved one go missing at some point in their lives, and there is no preclusion based on race, class, or any other kind of status.

The Importance of a Missing Persons Flyer

The total number of entries classified as Missing Person Activity in Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center was in excess of one million in the year 2016—exactly 1,862,238. Around a third of those entries are either canceled or cleared for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, many of those entries are identified with supplemental material following the discovery of remains—DNA samples, dental records, etc. Hundreds of thousands of those entries are cleared following the individual having been located, usually not too long after the report was made. Investigators follow a handful of leads, make a few phone calls, and are able to locate a missing person alive and well within 24-48 hours. There are other cases that stretch on longer, with search parties organized, investigators trying to retrace the individual’s steps, and perhaps most importantly, flyers with all of the relevant information about the missing person are circulating.

Private investigator, Thomas Lauth, is an expert in complex missing person cases. He lauds the current voyeuristic climate in the United States as perfect conditions for distribution of a missing persons flyer, “The purpose of a missing person’s flyer is to get the missing person’s face and information out there. The more individuals who see their face, the greater the chance is that the one person who might have seen something or knows something will come forward with information that could lead to their safe return.” The digital age, Lauth says, has ratcheted this type of visibility up to an entirely different level. Everyone these days is glued to their screens, waiting for the next big story to surface, or keeping up with their friends on social media. If you can get a missing person’s name or face on social media throughout the nation, that’s a well of information the boots-on-the-ground investigators just aren’t able to tap quickly and efficiently.” Viral visibility of a missing person means investigators can receive many leads—while varying in quality—to conduct a comprehensive investigation that looks at all angles of any disappearance.

How To Create a Missing Persons Flyer

When a loved one goes missing, the police turn to those closest to them for information about their daily routine, habits, personality, and behavior. Once information has been provided, those witnesses often experience a high-adrenaline need to be a part of the search effort. They organize and conduct searches, both with and without the facilitation of law enforcement. Creating and printing missing person fliers is another way they contribute to the search. Law enforcement do not typically create missing person fliers, so it’s important close loved ones compare notes to compile all relevant information for a flyer that’s easy to read and catches the eye. Digital distribution is also crucial, sharing the flyer over and over again while encouraging others to do the same. The following is a list of items that must be present on a missing persons flyer:

  • Name: The word MISSING should be displayed in large font over the person’s full name. This grabs people’s attention.
  • Date missing
  • Date of birth
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Height (in feet and inches)
  • Weight (in pounds)
  • Build (thin, medium, heavy, etc).
  • Eyes (color)
  • Hair (color, length, wavy, or straight, how they wear it the most often)
  • Race (Caucasian, Hispanic, African American, etc)
  • Complexion (fair, olive, etc)
  • Clothing: Describe what the person was wearing at the time they disappeared, including any jewelry, personal belongings. It’s also crucial to note any other significant physical descriptors such as tattoos, body piercings, birth marks, scars, or health conditions.
  • Circumstances of disappearance: This includes the date, time, location, and conditions under which the person goes missing, whether it’s of their own volition, due to a health problem, or if they were kidnapped. Be sure to include details such as whether or not this person is with anyone else and possible places they may be. This can trigger a person’s memory when they see the flyer.

And of course, a missing person’s flyer is useless without a current photo of the missing person. Characteristics such as build, hairstyle, and clothing are so important because the photograph may not reflect these details accurately.

When a loved one goes missing, their friends and families often feel helpless as they wait anxiously for answers from law enforcement. Creating, printing, and distributing a missing persons flyer is one of the best ways for private citizens to assist law enforcement. Whether on the street or online, visibility is key. Out there, someone knows something and has seen something. A missing person flyer could be the thing that triggers their memory.