Northants Police Missing Persons Unit
|Published: 23rd April 2012 11:10|
Northants Police Missing Persons unit
Northamptonshire Police now receives around 3,000 calls about missing people every year, each one generating a quick and coordinated response involving partner agencies and, on occasion, liaison with other forces both in the UK and abroad.
The Force’s Missing Persons Unit is made up of two missing person co-coordinators, Nick Cummings and Deborah Gordon. Since the unit was formed three years ago, the pair have overseen the police response to missing people in the county.
A day’s work for the two coordinators involves daily monitoring of those who have gone missing, and this is constantly updated as people are lost and found. Each report of a missing person involves the completion of a risk assessment including details such as age, health, where the person lives, whether a suicide note has been left, whether the person is old and suffers dementia or whether they have a history of disappearing. That assessment will then set the tone for the proceeding investigation. Most people are found within 24 hours. Indeed, a lot of the unit’s work involves looking for people, often young people, who go missing on a weekly, or even daily, basis.
Mr Cummings said: “We don’t do the actual searching on a day-to-day basis. What we are about is looking at the risks that are involved and making sure we are dealing with them appropriately.
“Quite often we do have some prior knowledge of people. Obviously some of the cases are completely unknown to us, and our job is trying to inform the Force of the risks involved.”
Part of that process is trying to establish if the missing person is running away, or even towards something. Domestic or sexual abuse could be a factor, as are all too frequently drink or drugs.
Sometimes social networking such as Facebook are somehow implicated, and are now playing an increasingly important role in both establishing why people go missing as well as trying to find them. The Missing Persons Unit works with partner agencies such as International Social Services, International Child Abduction, Search UK and Shelter, as well as the Force’s own Child Protection Team.
Mr Cummings said:
“Everyone has their own reason for going missing. We have to establish what they are running from or towards and this will inform the investigation.
"We also have to weigh up an individual’s human rights to move somewhere and not necessarily want people to know where they are.
“Sometimes it is as simple as a relationship break-up and one person have taken themselves away, and that isn’t necessarily the business of the police. But once we establish there is no risk then that is a decision we can make later.”
Detective Inspector Helen Knight from the Force's Protecting Vulnerable Adults Team said:
"Having somebody you know go missing is a very distressing time for family and friends. All cases reported to us are thoroughly investigated and coordinated by our specialist unit with a view to a quick and positive outcome."