What to do if someone you love is missing

Author: Dabney Weems

For nearly 40 years, May 25 has been declared National Missing Children's Day. The annual designation, which began in 1983, is designed to draw attention to and prioritize child safety. The commemoration serves as a reminder to continue efforts to reunite missing children with their families and an occasion to honor those dedicated to the cause. 

Each year, more than 10,000 children and adults are reported missing to the North Carolina Center for Missing Persons. The center, established in 1985, serves as the clearinghouse for information regarding missing children and adults and is charged with issuing AMBER and Silver Alerts. It works with law enforcement agencies to locate the adults and children who were reported missing.

The center provides police and sheriff's departments with technical assistance and serves as a liaison between states and various governmental agencies to solve missing children and adult cases. Staff maintain an extensive computer database of information on the varied aspects of missing children and adults in North Carolina and allows them to cross reference descriptors to retrieve possible matches in unidentified person cases.

It also maintains a nationwide, toll-free telephone number that is available 24 hours a day with a staff member always on call. Families or law enforcement officers needing immediate assistance can call 1-800-522-KIDS (522-5437).

AMBER Alerts
AMBER Alerts began in 1996 and stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. The North Carolina AMBER Alert system utilizes broadcast media, electronic highway signs, cell phones, websites and electronic gaming machines to immediately notify citizens of criminally abducted children.
The following criteria must be met for an AMBER Alert to be issued:

  • 17 years old or younger
  • Believed to have been abducted
  • Not taken by a parent (unless the child is in danger)
  • Not believed to be a runaway or voluntarily missing
  • Abduction has been reported to and investigated by a law enforcement agency

Silver Alerts
Silver Alerts are used to help locate individuals who suffer from dementia or another cognitive impairment who may be endangered. Like AMBER Alerts, the program uses broadcast media, electronic highway signs, cell phones, websites and electronic gaming machines to quickly disseminate descriptive information about the missing person. The following criteria must be met for a Silver Alert to be issued:

  • Person is believed to be missing
  • Person is believed to be suffering from dementia, Alzheimer's disease or a disability that requires them to be protected from potential abuse or other physical harm, neglect or exploitation
  • Legal custodian of the missing person has submitted a missing person's report to the local law enforcement agency where the person went missing
  • Law enforcement reports the incident to the N.C. Center for Missing Persons

What to do if a Child or Adult is Missing
If someone is missing, family and friends should immediately notify local law enforcement. There is no waiting period. Time is valuable, so act fast and involve law enforcement as soon as possible. They should also:

  • File a police report
  • Provide officers with a recent photo of the missing person
  • Request law enforcement to put out a Be on the Look Out Bulletin
  • Ask for an organized search using tracking dogs
  • Limit access to your home until investigators have collected evidence
  • Make copies of recent photos for law enforcement, news media and groups and organizations assisting with the search
  • Designate one person to answer your phone and keep a notepad and pen handy to write notes about calls received.

Child Identification Form – complete and keep at home in case needed
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children - provides safety and prevention resources for families and child-serving professionals
FBI Child ID App - store photos and vital information about your children. Available for IOS and Android.
N.C Center for Missing Persons

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