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Missing Persons: Volunteers Supporting Law Enforcement

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Date Published
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Electronic Document
Based on the ideas and concerns of a focus group that met in January 2010 hosted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) Program, this publication addresses the use of affiliated and spontaneous volunteers in missing person investigations, how to deal with the media, types of missing persons cases, the technology available, partner organizations, and individual agency experiences with missing persons.
The intent of this publication is to provide guidance for those managing law enforcement volunteer programs related to missing person cases. In discussing the differences between a runaway child and an abducted child, as well as an adult who abandons his/her customary life, and an Alzheimer’s patient who wanders away from his/her caretaker, this guide suggests that volunteers can assist no matter the circumstances of a disappearance. Volunteers can assist during an active missing person investigation by canvassing neighborhoods door to door, providing perimeter control at the scene, or providing relief services to investigators and volunteers during long searches. Over the course of an investigation or once an investigation turns cold, volunteers can answer phones in the coroner’s unit, maintain missing person files, or help with phone banks. Volunteers can also perform activities related to the issue of missing persons, such as assisting parents in completing child identification kits, conducting address verification of registered sex offenders, and replacing batteries in tracking system bracelets worn by individuals predisposed to wandering away from home. This publication also discusses ways to best use spontaneous volunteers who respond to media broadcasts of a missing person. These volunteers must be supervised at all times, their activities documented, their identities verified, and their backgrounds checked. Volunteers must also be trained in what to do if they locate evidence, the missing person, or a suspect. A listing of resources and descriptions of specific law enforcement volunteer missing persons units
Date Created: December 23, 2019