Wait 24 Hours Before Filing a Missing Person Report

You have to wait 24 hours before reporting a missing person to the police.

Don’t Believe That!

Yet another myth brought to us by television and movies. Most such myths are harmless, but this one can literally mean the difference between life and death. Police officers stress the importance of reporting an unexplained absence as quickly as possible, especially if violence or suspicious circumstances are involved.

“The first 12 to 24 hours are the most critical in an active missing persons investigation,” according to Amy Dobbs, an investigator with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, in a 2014 interview with USA TODAY. “The longer it takes for a case to be reported and become an active investigation, the less likely a positive outcome will occur.”

The myth is so widely believed that government organizations have made it a priority to properly educate the public – not only in the United States, but all over the world. The Gov.UK website highlights that “You don’t have to wait 24 hours before contacting the police.” The Australian government publishes a fact sheet from the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre that states at the very top of the first page: “You do not have to wait 24 hours before reporting someone as missing.” The Canadian Centre for Information on Missing Adults also indicates “There is no waiting period for filing a missing person report in Canada.”

About 700,000 people are reported missing in the U.S. alone every year, but the great majority of those cases are favorably resolved. About 80,000 – 90,000 individuals are unaccounted for at any given time.

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