The ‘Missing’ Missing

The United States has a large number of people who go missing every year. In the most recent public reports, the FBI states that there were 85,459 open cases of missing persons in the NCIC system on December 31st, 2018. Within that year law enforcement had entered over 612,000 reports and also cleared out over 615,000 others.

It’s clear the nation has a massive task in recovering all those missing. But there’s something important to remember here – these numbers only account for the reported missing persons. What about missing persons not reported to anyone?

There are an estimated 1.5 million ‘missing’ missing – those whose disappearance goes unreported. This could be for many reasons. Home insecurity, mental illness, estranged family/friends, immigration status, abuse, and being victimized are examples of why this may happen.

No flyers are ever made, no search parties are held. The Outpost for Hope identifies several consequences for these cases never being reported – they often end up in situations like human trafficking or being found as a Jane or John Doe.

What can be done? The International Organization for Migration has pushed for better data collection, better identifying tools for remains, and better communication at the borders. Perhaps we need better legal protection for those who come forward with information regardless of their citizenship status. More accessible mental health care and harm reduction strategies wouldn’t hurt.

No matter what it is our nation decides to do – we hope to see a better situation in the future where people feel safe enough to report disappearances and where they are being recovered safely.

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