What do I do when
a person goes missing?

Some Tips:

Do Not Panic

Don't panic. They may have simply forgotten their phone, got caught up in some activity or plain forgot to check in.

Contact Friends

Contact friends and family first to ask if they have any knowledge of the missing person's whereabouts.

Be Contactable

Keep your phone within reach, make sure your ringer is on and the phone stays fully charged, in case they try to reach you.

Law Enforcement

Once you have sufficient reason to believe they are in fact missing, contact your local law enforcement agency to make a missing persons report.


Depending on the policy of the police department, you may be asked to wait a sufficient amount of time (24 - 72 hours) before they will take your report. This should only be in matters where the missing person is an ADULT and the disappearance is thought to be completely voluntary.  This should NOT apply to missing juveniles (under the age of 21), vulnerable persons, missing elderly persons or persons suspected to be a victim of foul play.

Suzanne's Law

There are laws that require law enforcement to take the report of missing juveniles:

"Suzanne's Law" amends Section 3701 (a) of the Crime Control Act of 1990 so that there is no waiting period before a law enforcement agency initiates an investigation of a missing person under the age of twenty one and reports the missing person to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) of the Department of Justice.

The "NamUs Bill" of 2018 requires all Michigan law enforcement to immediately report missing persons cases to the database namus.gov after a preliminary investigation.


Keep in mind, it is NOT illegal for an adult to voluntarily go missing. Law Enforcement have certain rules and regulations to protect people's privacy in cases where this is the situation. Don't get frustrated by the police sticking to their guidelines; remember they are in place for a reason. Adult voluntary missing persons privacy rights also have to be protected. 

Contact Us

If you feel that the law enforcement agency is not taking your missing persons vulnerabilities serious and will not take a police report, please Contact Us for further assistance.


If the missing person is vulnerable (i.e., under 18 years of age, over 65 years of age, is suffering from a physical or mental illness, is depressed/suicidal or the disappearance is completely out of character) report the disappearance to police immediately if your suspicions are aroused. It's never too soon in these instances and time may be of the essence. This could also include someone on life-saving medication who has not taken their medicine with them. You can contact police and the local media to ask for help in publicizing their story. REMEMBER in these events ... it's never too soon.


Police will need details like the missing person's photo, date of birth, address, physical description, clothing last seen wearing and other details of the life of your missing person. Make it a routine to take at least one head and shoulders photograph of your loved ones each year. Please be complete with the information you provide to law enforcement; it's always better to have too much information, than not enough.


Keep in mind, police may request your assistance in getting bank records, social media account information and cell phone records for your missing person as well.

More Information

Down the line, police may ask for additional information like dental records and DNA samples. Keep in mind there is a possibility your loved one could be found deceased, and outside of your local jurisdiction. You would never want your loved one to be kept in a morgue or buried as an unidentified person. These records are kept on file in case such an event occurs.


Family reference DNA samples can also be taken. This is a non-invasive swab taken from the inside of the cheek of a potential donor. The DNA is entered into the CODIS DNA databank and can be cross-referenced with unidentified human remains samples that are also entered.

Stay in the Loop

Ask police to keep in touch and if they don't, phone them. Keep in mind they have other pressing cases, but don't let them forget about yours. If they don't ask about DNA and dental records and your missing person has been gone for over 30 day, offer them up.

Conduct Your Own Search

If your missing person does not fit the foul play/endangered missing situation, the Internet provides options for you to search for your loved one. If your missing person is deemed voluntary by your local police department, you can still conduct searches on your own. The web site NamUs, namus.gov, provides a platform for a nationwide posting of your missing person's photo, physical description and circumstances. Keep in mind you still have to involve law enforcement to have your missing person's case profiled on the NamUs site, but they will include voluntary missing cases.

Search and Rescue

Canine search teams and pedestrian searches may also be an option to search for your loved one. First, let your local police department decide if they want to do this. If they choose not to, and you are of the opinion your missing person is not missing voluntarily, or not the search for them was not complete, there are several non-profit search and rescue (SAR) agencies that can assist with setting up searches. Contact Us for more information.

What NOT To Do:

Do Not Panic.

Don't panic.

Do Not Wait

Don't wait, especially if your missing person is vulnerable; notify police as soon as you think something is wrong.

Do Not Delay

Don't delay in searching; time can be of the essence.

Do Not Keep it a Secret

Don't keep their disappearance a secret. The more people you tell, the more people you have looking on your behalf and the speedier the results might be.

Do Not Use Personal Contact Information

If you have making an on-line post for social media DO NOT include your personal contact information.  The Police Department and their phone number should be listed as the point of contact for all tips and questions.

Do Not Clean

Don't tidy up their bedroom, car or personal belongings until the police have seen it, whether it's messy or not. Do not dust before fingerprints have been taken.

Social Media

Do not alter social media accounts, cell phone messages, text messages, etc. These may be important indicators of your missing person's motive (or lack thereof) when they went missing.

Follow Your Intuition

Don't be put off if you don't get an immediate response from law enforcement...you know your loved one and their behaviors...follow your intuition.  If you are not getting a formal report, Contact Us.

Avoid Hoax's

To avoid being the victim of a hoax,do not put your own telephone number or address on missing posters, social media posts or advertisements. Always use a police department contact number. People may prey upon you and can be cruel. Do not get caught up in any hoaxes and contact law enforcement if you believe you have been the victim of one.

Do Not Give Up

Don't give up, keep appealing and searching. Remember that people want to help. Try to keep your loved one's name and photo in the public eye. Your missing person is important.