Our Beyond the Beat awareness campaign focuses on what happens across the Force and in the wider community when someone goes missing.

BTB Gareth storyWiltshire Police officers have dealt with 1,456 reports of missing people in the last six months. A significant number of people are reported missing more than once, many of whom are vulnerable or suffering from mental health conditions or dementia.

"When my dad went missing I was embarrassed to call the police - somewhat ridiculous as I'm a Wiltshire police officer myself. It was a busy Friday night and I know only too well the time and paper work involved in investigating one missing person. This feeling was entirely personal and didn't reflect the way I was actually treated by the police officers who helped find him, which was with patience, kindness and professionalism.

My father had been caring for my mother for some time and when the time came when she needed full time professional care, he moved into a flat in a supported living complex, enjoying living independently in a small town.

Over the next year my dad began to increasingly display signs of Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). LBD can be intermittent and most of the time my father was fine but sometimes he experienced paranoia, hallucinations and memory issues. Over that year my dad started to go out at odd times - usually early in the mornings - and most of those times he came home by himself. Often he had been on quite long journeys by train or bus but couldn't always explain why.

As the symptoms got worse these trips became more alarming. At its worst my dad described finding himself suddenly in the middle of nowhere in the dark with no idea why he was there and having to find his way home. He described this as 'absolutely terrifying'.

My sister and I tried various ways to stop my father going out at night, and various ways to track him if he did, with varied success. All methods failed eventually.

We both found this period of time to be very stressful with my father needing almost as much attention as our own, young families. Sometimes we felt we were being judged for somehow failing to keep our own father safe. Sometimes we judged ourselves.

As my dad's condition worsened and the missing episodes became more frequent and alarming, the police naturally became involved.  Dad has never been particularly fond of the police but he spoke very positively about officers who helped him. This is a really good sign!

I was also impressed with the police response when I had to report him missing on a few occasions. Everyone I spoke to was polite, sympathetic and spent time explaining what was happening and updating me promptly when required. The people I spoke to never made me feel embarrassed or that I was wasting police time.

I also had excellent follow ups from the Missing Person's co-ordinators at Wiltshire Police. They were helpful, caring and offered some excellent advice.

Dad now lives in secure care accommodation. He is certainly safer but, sadly, he misses his independence enormously. "

Finding a missing person isn't just a matter for the police. It's a coordinated approach involving a range of police departments, such as the dog unit and the police drones which are our 'eye in the sky', as well as other partner agencies such as Wiltshire Search and Rescue (WILSAR) and the National Police Air Service (NPAS).

The approaches to each report of a missing person are tailored to each set of individual circumstances. The checklist is vast and specific strategies exist for different scenarios - for example, people with dementia, learning disabilities, children, or people who are suicidal.

And work doesn't stop when someone is found. Anyone who has been found has their medical and welfare needs assessed and the reason for their disappearance is explored. If they need further support then they are referred to the appropriate services, for example social services, mental health teams, GPs or hospital. If any offences have taken place then these are investigated.

It's important that families and carers feel that there's something they can do to help when someone goes missing. Later this year, Wiltshire Police is piloting the 'The Herbert Protocol' a national scheme which encourages carers to compile useful information, which can be used in the event of a vulnerable person going missing.

Carers, family members and friends can complete in advance, a form recording all vital details, such as medication required, mobile numbers, places previously located, and a photograph.  In the event of your family member or friend going missing, the form can be easily handed to the police to reduce the time taken in gathering this information.

The Herbert Protocol initiative is named after George Herbert, a War veteran of the Normandy landings, who lived with dementia.

Further information is available below:

Wiltshire Police information on what to do if someone goes missing

Dementia UK 

Alzheimers Society

Missing People charity offering support to missing people and their families           

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