Wiltshire Police's Missing Campaign launches today (Monday 20 August), looking at the complex issue of missing people and what goes on behind the scenes when someone is reported missing. The week long campaign is part of the Force 'Beyond the Beat' summer campaign on policing issues the public may not always be aware of.
The Force deals with 10 reports of missing people every day. Last month (July), officers dealt with 300 reports of missing people - 193 children and 107 adults.
Whilst 96 per cent of missing people are found within 24 hours, it costs Wiltshire Police in the region of £4.4 million a year to respond to and investigate reports of missing people.
Detective Inspector Mark Kent, Force lead for Missing People said, "A significant number of adults and children are reported missing more than once, but we treat each report individually. Vulnerable people who are at risk of abuse or exploitation are often those reported missing.
"It's our job to protect people from harm. We first have to assess the level of risk to the person who is missing. We know that people rarely go missing without a reason and it is often the symptom of a wider problem in someone's life.
"You can report a missing person to the police at any time and don't need to wait 24 hours before making a report. Call 101, or 999 if you think the missing person is at serious risk of harm," he added."
People go missing for all sorts of reasons and each case is treated as unique. But finding a missing person isn't just a matter for the police. It takes a coordinated approach with police departments including the police dog unit and drones unit, and agencies such as Wiltshire Search and Rescue and the National Police Air Service.
Wiltshire Police wants to highlight some of the reasons why people go missing and some simple steps the public can take to help protect vulnerable children and adults. We'll be highlighting the work of our specialist units and partners in tracking missing people.
While choosing to go missing is not a crime, telling someone you're safe, even if you don't want them to know where you are, could save precious police time and, more importantly, stop your family worrying about your safety.
People with medical conditions like dementia often go missing and some basic advice could help families and carers trace people more quickly. During the week we'll share some guidelines to help parents and carers protect children from going missing and what to do when they do.
Susannah Drury, Director at national charity Missing People, said: 'Every 90 seconds someone goes missing in the UK. Of the 330,000 reports made to police each year, we're pleased that 78 per cent of cases are closed within 24 hours, and only 1 per cent remain missing after a year.
"Missing People is the only UK charity which offers a lifeline to those who have a missing loved one, or who are away from home. We work closely with Wiltshire Police to guarantee people in the local area who are affected by the issue of missing know where we are if they need us. It is important that anyone who goes missing is safe and has somebody to turn to."
Wiltshire Police also works closely with Wiltshire Search and Rescue when looking for someone who has been reported missing and assessed as medium or high risk. WILSAR relies entirely on fundraising for income, staffed by a team of trained volunteers. In 2017 the team gave 25,000 hours of voluntary time and attended 41 incidents.
Adrian Edwards, Chair of Wiltshire Search and Rescue, said: "We play a vital role supporting the emergency services. Vulnerable missing people who need medical attention are given it by our volunteers who are specifically trained to do this in an emergency situation. We directly helped to save the lives of five people last year who would have died if they had not been found and given lifesaving treatments by Wiltshire Search and Rescue volunteers."
Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson has been closely involved in looking at the causes behind missing. "For most people going missing is not a rational decision. It can be an indicator of a challenging or chaotic life for a vulnerable person who may be in a difficult situation.
"It is not a crime to go missing, but rightly when that person is vulnerable, at risk from themselves or others, it is only right that the police step in to safeguard them.
"It doesn't however take away from the fact that missing places a huge demand on policing, using extensive police resources and officer time. It's important that we continue to look beyond the individual episodes of missing to see the bigger picture or problem, and identify the cause.
"I am committed to working with Wiltshire Police, local authority partners and the voluntary sector to make sure that provision is in place to offer support and identify the reasons behind missing, treating the cause of the problem not just the symptom."
Follow our work this week as we delve deeper into the world of missing people and how a modern day police force deals with this unique and growing demand.
Missing People's advice to anyone thinking of going missing, already away from home, or missing a loved one is to call or text them on 116 000 or email email@example.com Their website www.missingpeople.org.uk also includes a range of information and support.
Published on Monday 20 August 2018.