There is no minimum time requirement for reporting someone missing.
Report to police
As soon as someone’s whereabouts is unknown and there is concern for their safety and welfare, they can be reported missing to police. Police will prioritize suspicious cases, missing children, and those with mental illness. Try to file the report in person, and convey the reasons for your concerns (it may help to go with someone who shares your worry). Police must take reports of missing persons – do not accept being sent away.
Consider the following as you prepare to report to the police:
- Download, save and complete: Missing Person Details Form
- Provide the most appropriate recent photograph(s) and be prepared for them to be used across media.
- Be completely honest — solid information helps police prioritize. Pass on additional details as they occur to you.
- Try to establish a good relationship with the police officers handling the case.
- If applicable, ask police to triangulate their mobile phone (this can only be done if the phone is switched on).
- Ask that all stations in surrounding areas are alerted via internal communications.
- Check if the officer in charge has reason to advise against media attention before alerting media.
Remember that going missing is not a crime so police cannot make every missing person a priority. And don’t overestimate police resources – what you see on TV often isn’t realistic.
National Missing and Unidentified Persons System
National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a government-funded body that complements the roles of state and territory police missing persons units. They operate under the U.S. Department of Justice and are the official platform for American missing persons. NamUs has arrangements with Bureau of Justice Assistance and National Institute of Justice to promote awareness. You must request that your loved one is added to their database – it is not automatic. They also have publications like reports and fact sheets regarding a range of issues relevant to missing persons.
If your loved one is found
Once they have been located, it is important to inform the relevant parties – police, family and friends. In the event you’ve amassed public support via social media, you should also communicate the news to your audience. Pages and accounts can be disabled or removed if/when you see fit.