It’s National Missing Persons Week in Australia and NSW and Victoria Police have released some extraordinary figures on the number of people who go missing. Last year alone, more than 20,000 people were reported as those two states alone.
Thankfully, many of them were subsequently located, but hundreds of families are still waiting for news about the whereabouts of a loved one.
On average, 35,000 people are reported missing in Australia every year – equivalent to one person every 15 minutes.
There are three groups most at risk of going missing; those living with a mental illness, young people, and older people with dementia or memory loss. This year’s focus is on people with dementia who go missing.
NSW Police investigated 120 reports of missing people suffering from dementia in 2013. Many more incidents are not reported to police and the person is located by family or carers within hours of going missing, however one dementia sufferer who went missing in 2013 has still not been found.
On average, a person suffering dementia will be missing for up to a day before they are located.
The good news is 99.5 per cent of missing persons are located; however, there are about 1600 long-term (more than six months) missing persons in Australia.
Approximately one third of missing persons go missing more than once – particularly young people and people with dementia. As the stats below should, a surprisingly 6 in every 10 who go missing in NSW are under 18.
It is estimated that for every missing person reported, at least 12 others are affected whether it is emotionally, psychologically, physically or financially.
In 2013, 11,803 people were reported missing in NSW and 36 people remain missing.
* An average of 227 missing person reports are made each week
* An average of 32 missing person reports are made each day
* 60% are under 18 years old
* 10% are over 60 years old
* 11,797 missing people were located in 2013 (some were reported missing in previous years).
There are currently 684 long-term Missing Persons (missing for more than 12 months), however, 431 of those cases have been finalised at Coroners Court.
So far in 2014, 5635 people have been reported missing to NSW Police. Of those, 30 have been missing for more than three months.
Victoria over 2013/14, there were 8462 missing persons reports.
Victorian Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana said he understood that some people didn’t want to be found, but appealed to them to let police know they were OK for the sake of the families involved.
“It’s not our job to judge, but rather make sure that anyone reported as missing is safe and well. For those of you who may have started a new life without the knowledge of your family or friends, please let police know so we can at least alleviate some of that pain, he said.
Anyone with information on a missing person should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or online. If can be done confidentially.
To report someone missing, contact your local police. If it’s an emergency, such as a child or elderly person missing, call 000.
NSW Police also sought to dispel a number of misunderstandings around what happens when someone goes missing with the following responses to what they call ‘myths’.
Myth: You need to wait 24 hours before reporting a person missing.
Fact: You do not have to wait 24 hours to report someone as missing. If you have serious concerns for the safety and welfare of a person, and their whereabouts are unknown, then you may immediately report them missing to your local police. Police will take a report where there are concerns for safety and welfare and their whereabouts are unknown.
Myth: Adults cannot be reported as missing.
Fact: In Australia, anyone can be reported as missing if their disappearance is out of character and there are concerns for their safety and welfare.
Myth: People ‘choose’ to go missing.
Fact: Circumstances can limit people’s choices and make them more vulnerable to leaving their usual environment and go missing. There are a number of triggers such as mental illness, economic and/or social problems.
At the time of his disappearance, he was wearing a grey t-shirt, khaki pants and dark shoes. NSW Police believe he was kidnapped.
Myth: When children are missing they are likely to have been abducted.
Fact: Most children that are reported missing are located safe and well within 24 hours. Common reasons for children going missing include a breakdown in communication and disciplinary issues.
Myth: Details about missing persons are not confidential.
Fact: All details about missing persons are kept confidential and are not made available to the public unless permission has been granted by the family and investigating officers.
Myth: If someone has been reported missing and they are then located, you cannot report them if they go missing again.
Fact: Each time a person goes missing, even if they have gone missing before, it is treated as an individual report.
Myth: When a missing person is located their address will be provided to the person who reported them missing.
Fact: When located, a missing person must give permission before their whereabouts are released. A decision to release a missing child’s details will be determined by the circumstances surrounding the reasons the child went missing.
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