N.C. Center for Missing Persons Helps Families When They Need It Most

Wednesday, February 3, 2021 - 9:00am

Before it happens to you, nobody wants to think about the scary prospect of a missing child, parent or loved one. We’re hesitant to think about it, but one of the first steps in successfully coping with such a dire situation is to prepare mentally for such a possibility by knowing what law enforcement and other resources are available to identify and recover missing persons. 

North Carolina collaborates with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in a federal partnership that has created a state operations center for missing persons cases. Aptly named the N.C.  Center for Missing Persons, the small agency acts as an intelligence-gathering operation that collects, organizes, shares and manages information critical to missing persons events. Their singular mission is simple: locate missing persons and reunite them with their families.

Director Nona Best has kept that mission in mind over the course of the past decade as she has led the N.C. Center for Missing Persons. She has been at the forefront of critical response planning that optimize law enforcement’s ability to act quickly and deliberately. For example, North Carolina is one of the few states to integrate a statewide search and recovery effort to include missing adults and to allow Silver Alerts to be issued for all age groups. Just as Amber Alerts notify the public of missing and endangered children by pinging cell-phones, posting messages on highway signs and broadcasting announcements on television and radio stations, Silver Alerts and Blue Alerts serve as similar emergency notifications for the cognitively impaired and missing or injured law enforcement officers, respectively. 

Blue Alerts signify an event in which a law enforcement officer is missing, seriously injured or who has been killed in the line of duty. The Blue Alert system was founded upon the success of the Amber and Silver Alerts and designed to only be activated in circumstances where extraordinary communication measures were needed that would involve agencies without law enforcement experience. North Carolina has never had to issue a Blue Alert.

The primary and most effective method of issuing Amber and Silver Alerts starts with the Emergency Alert System. The EAS system is all based on volunteer service from radio and television stations. Secondary notification occurs through the media, Department of Transportation, and the North Carolina Center for Missing and Exploited Children which has a large secondary distribution list they use for all 50 states. 

Director Best is proud of the accomplishments and progress made in the past decade. She is constantly creating new initiatives and strengthening partnerships across the state to make statewide search and rescue operations as prepared as possible. One of her current goals is to strengthen the response capability of Tribal Nations to missing persons events by ensuring well-resourced action plans created from shared knowledge, training, and efficient communication and coordination with law enforcement agencies.

The N.C. Center for Missing Persons has helped ensure North Carolina is a state that creates innovative public safety measures. North Carolina was one of the first states to include adults into a statewide search database alongside missing children and to create Silver Alerts encompassing cognitive impairments that do not require age restrictions. 

Best describes the center as a “repository and information agency” that coordinates critical data by sharing it among appropriate law enforcement agencies. “In essence,” she explains, “I collect, gather, share and advise.”

Hundreds of North Carolinians and their families are especially grateful that Best has shared that knowledge and advice over the past decade because the information helped to reunite them with their loved ones.

 

What You Should Know About Missing Persons Events:

  • North Carolina law does NOT require that someone must be missing for a certain period before reaching out to local authorities. The first step after a child or adult is discovered missing is to request to file a missing person’s report from the sheriff’s office (county/township) or police department (municipality/city).  It helps law enforcement agencies to have a current photo and accurate description of events that occurred before their disappearance. 
  • Check out the DPS website for more info on Amber, Silver Alerts, and Blue Alerts.
  • Free training for educators, law enforcement and parents is available on The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s website