Missing person

Missing person

A missing person is a person who has disappeared for no known reason.

Missing persons' photographs may be posted on bulletin boards, postcards, and websites, along with a phone number to be contacted if a sighting has been made.

People disappear for many reasons. Some individuals choose to disappear alone; most of these soon return. About 10% of missing persons in the United States never return, however. Reasons for this include:

  • Leaving home to start again in a new place under a new name.
  • Becoming the victim of kidnapping.
  • Abduction (of a minor) by a non-custodial parent or other relative.
  • Seizure by government officials without due process of law.
  • Suicide in a remote location or under an assumed name (to spare their families the suicide at home, or to allow their deaths to be eventually declared in absentia).
  • Victim of murder (body disguised, destroyed, or hidden).
  • Mental illness can cause someone to become lost, or they may not know how to identify themselves.
  • Death by natural causes or accident far from home without identification.
  • Disappearance in order to take advantage of better employment or living conditions elsewhere.
  • Sold into slavery, serfdom, sexual servitude, or other unfree labor.
  • To avoid discovery of a crime or apprehension by law-enforcement authorities. (See also failure to appear).
  • Joining a cult or other "religious" organization.
  • To escape domestic abuse.
  • To avoid war or persecution during a genocide.
  • To escape famine or natural disaster.

US Statistics

By the end of 2005, there were 109,531 active missing person records according to the US Department of Justice. Children under the age of 18 account for 58,081 (53.03%) of the records and 11,868 (10.84%) were for young adults between the ages of 18 and 20.

During 2005, 834,536 entries were made into the National Crime Information Center's missing person file, which was an increase of 0.51% from the 830,325 entered in 2004. Missing Person records that were cleared or canceled during the same period totaled 844,838. The reasons for these removals include: a law enforcement agency located the subject, the individual returned home, or the record had to be removed by the entering agency due to a determination that the record is invalid.

Legal Issues

A common misconception is that a person must be absent for 72 hours before being legally classed as missing, but this is rarely the case; in instances where there is evidence of violence or of an unusual absence, law enforcement agencies often stress the importance of beginning an investigation promptly.

In most common law jurisdictions a missing person can be declared dead in absentia (or "legally dead") after seven years. This time frame may be reduced in certain cases, such as deaths in major battles or mass disasters such as the September 11, 2001 attacks.


On May 26, 2002, a monument to missing persons was unveiled in County Kilkenny, Republic of Ireland by President Mary McAleese. It was the first monument of its kind in the world.


See also

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