Every day, 2,300 Americans simply disappear. No one knows where they went, why they’re gone or if they’re coming back. These are the missing person reports, many of which are never solved.

As of January 1, 2012, there were 85,158 active missing person files in the he National Crime Information Center (NCIC). These are broken down in to 5 categories:

  • A person of any age who is missing and who is under proven physical/mental disability or is senile, thereby subjecting that person or others to personal and immediate danger.
  • A person of any age who is missing under circumstances indicating that the disappearance was not voluntary.
  • A person of any age who is missing under circumstances indicating that that person’s physical safety may be in danger.
  • A person of any age who is missing after a catastrophe.
  • A person who is missing and declared unemancipated as defined by the laws of the person’s state of residence and does not meet any of the entry criteria set forth in 1-4 above.

When a person is reported missing, they are entered into this national database which helps coordinate state, local and national search resources. Persons believed to be in danger receive higher priority.

In addition to missing persons, the NCIC also has a database of unidentified human remains. There are 7,721 active entries as of January 1st. In total, at any given moment there are an estimated 40,000 unidentified human remains sitting in coroner’s offices around the U.S. When a person is reported missing, they are first run through this system to check for a possible match. In a typical year medical examiner and coroners’ offices reported that they manage about 4,400 unidentified human remains, of which about 1,000 remain unidentified after one year. An estimated 23% of Medical Examiners and Coroner offices reported one or more unidentified decedents on record in 2006.

Seniors with Alzheimer’s or Dementia often go missing, and it is a growing problem in the U.S. as the population begins to age. Project Jason is one organization dedicated to providing resources for those who have lost elderly loved ones. There are 5 million people with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S., and 6 in 10 people with Alzheimer’s disease will wander. After the first 24 hours, 46% of missing elderly will be found deceased. Starting the search immediately is crucial, as is setting up a proper perimeter. Of those found, 89% are found within one mile of the point last seen, and half are found within 0.5 miles. Additionally, 63% are found in a creek or drainage and/or caught in briars/bushes.

After four to seven years of being missing (four in Georgia), a person can be declared Dead in Absentia. This is a legal declaration that a person is deceased in the absence of remains attributable to that person. This can also happen if the person was exposed to imminent peril (such as the collapse of the World Trade Center) and did not return, without the waiting period.

Additional Resources

The FBI NCIC Missing Persons and Unidentified Person Statistics for 2011: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ncic/ncic-missing-person-and-unidentified-person-statistics-for-2011

Crime Library America’s Missing: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/forensics/americas_missing/2.html

Project Jason Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia Increase Missing Person Statistics: http://www.projectjason.org/downloads/MissingElderly.pdf

Lawyers.com Missing or Legally Dead? http://blogs.lawyers.com/2011/01/missing-or-legally-dead/

National Crime Information Center (NCIC): http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/doj/fbi/is/ncic.htm

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Missing Persons: http://gbi.georgia.gov/cases/missing-persons

The New York Times Missing-Persons Cases: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/21/us/missing-person-cases-a-balancing-act-for-police.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

National Institute of Justice Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains: http://www.nij.gov/journals/256/missing-persons.html

National Missing and Unidentified Persons System: http://namus.gov/

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