When television series The First 48 hit screens across the United States, Americans were introduced to the idea that the odds of solving a missing person investigation drop by half if a solid lead is not found within the first 48 hours. Why might this be? It’s a harsh reality that when a crime has been committed, the memory of witnesses and trail of leads can fade all too quickly. It is critical for investigators to strike while the iron’s hot and take action quickly.
If the person who has vanished is someone central to your life, it’s easy to feel powerless in the face of such uncertainty. However, there are lots of things that can be done within this key window of opportunity to increase the odds of bringing your loved one home safely. Steps ranging from leveraging social media to hiring a private investigator for missing persons can be taken. Here, we’ll detail what you can do in the first 48 hours to tip the odds in your favor.
- Confirm that they’re really missing
All sorts of unexpected events can cause someone to drop off our radars, and at times, people simply don’t wish to be found. Even if your loved one makes a habit of cutting off communication, an instinct that tells you they may not be safe should always be followed. To confirm they are missing you can check their home and workplace, or call the local authorities to make a well-being check. If there are obvious signs of a struggle the police should be called immediately. If, however, the person’s absence is simply unexplained, you don’t have to wait to file a missing person’s report—you can do it right away.
- Contact law enforcement
When contacting the police, provide as much detail as possible to aid them in their missing person investigation—everything from a detailed personal description to a DNA sample if requested. The authorities may raise a silver or amber alert and you can ask that the case information be sent to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. It’s important to notify the police if there is a mental health aspect to the disappearance. You can also give them the details of your loved one’s smartphone so they can trace it, as well as contacting the justice department for advice on possible financial assistance.
- Connect with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances
You can reach out to anyone who may be close to or have had recent contact with the missing person. This may mean treading the same ground as the authorities, but you can communicate your findings with them as you go. Colleagues, acquaintances, friends, case managers, neighbors, doctors—the list is extensive, and all ideas are good ideas.
- Upload their information to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs)
NamUs is a national database of critical value that helps connect the dots in missing and unidentified persons cases. You can upload information about your loved one without the help of law enforcement or a missing persons investigator, simply by going to www.findthemissing.org. If your loved one is a minor, you can also call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Runaway Safeline.
- Make a one-page flyer and post it in relevant neighborhoods
A missing person poster can help spread the word when someone goes missing, potentially alerting key witnesses. You can Google online examples, although the commonly used format includes two recent photos, the person’s name, their hometown and state, their height, weight, and age, and the place they were last seen. If they may be in a known vehicle, you can include that information. The phone number of the police station or investigator should be included at the bottom.
- Connect with nearby hospitals, churches, shelters, and the coroner or medical examiner
At times a missing person is located somewhere where they either cannot contact friends and family, or they don’t realize their disappearance has caused alarm. You can reach out to your local hospitals and even places such as the local library to check for leads. While it might seem like a negative step to contact the coroner in the first 48 hours, doing so is helpful in the process of elimination, and will add another pair of eyes to the list of all who are watching for your loved one.
- Leverage Social Media
Upload your missing person poster to social media and ask your contacts to spread it far and wide. This offers fast coverage, making the most of that crucial first 40 hour period. You can also set up a crowdfunding page if you need resources to conduct your own searches. The online community is always quick to support others in any missing person investigation and may turn up a critical lead.
- Alert the local media
Local media—whether digital, a town newspaper, or a television station—will also help to spread the word. The more people that know about a missing person case, the more likely it is that a pivotal piece of information will come to light.
- Recruit a professional missing person investigator
Particularly if those impacted by a disappearance are feeling frustrated by the lack of police progress, hiring a private investigator for missing persons can bring greater resources and momentum to the search. A licensed missing person investigator from Lauth Investigations will have access to many of the same resources as law enforcement with the added capacity to follow leads across state lines where police jurisdictions might end, and even internationally if that’s where the case points.
While police may only be able to throw very limited resources at a missing person investigation in the first 48 hours, a private investigator can give it their full attention. If you need assistance in bringing a loved one home, call our dedicated team today. With over 30 years experience in the field, we have the skill and passion required to reveal the truth.