In pre-Covid times, the handling of missing person cases has always been a challenge for law enforcement. All across the United States, there are varying levels of care applied to missing person cases based on jurisdiction, resources, and authority. From New York City to Portland, cities of all sizes and demographic makeups face difficulties when it comes to missing people. However, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges to law enforcement on how they handle missing persons.
Before the pandemic hit, law enforcement already faces a myriad of issues in complex missing person cases. No two cases of missing people are alike, and it takes investigators with diverse discipline in locating individuals to find answers. However, some jurisdictions very rarely have their citizens go missing. In the event someone does go missing, investigators with jurisdiction may not have the experience or resources required to properly execute an investigation.
The typical barriers of missing person investigations were further exacerbated when the pandemic hit. As hospitals filled up with infected citizens, resources were diverted from regular channels in order to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Though crime is down, resources that would be available to law enforcement have been stretched in order to help those in hospitals and those sheltering in place.
Not only have the resources for missing persons been impacted by COVID-19, but also the amount of media coverage that missing persons can get. Before COVID, there were already disparities in missing person coverage with missing white women and girls getting the majority of coverage in the United States. Once the first wave of COVID-19 came over the United States, even those in the majority were having difficulty getting media exposure as the news cycle was dominated by COVID-19-related stories. Without that media coverage, it’s harder for law enforcement to incur leads that may lead to a resolution in the investigation. Without the ability to properly source the public for any available information, missing person investigators are once again hamstrung by the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.