In Alabama, as in many other states, missing persons should be reported to law enforcement. But that is just one step of many when a friend or loved one has gone missing. There are other organizations to whom reports can be made. Some, like the FBI, are trained to find missing persons, while other groups online or on social media can help to get the word out.
Reporting Missing Persons to Police
The process for filing a missing persons report in Alabama is similar to filing such a report in any state. It starts with a call to the local law enforcement agency. Alternatively, you can go personally to the police station or sheriff's office to file the report. The choice may depend on the circumstances.
For example, if a young child playing in the yard is suddenly gone, an emergency call to 911 will be warranted. Some police departments will ask family members to wait between 24 and 72 hours before filing a report unless the circumstances are concerning, so specify anything particularly worrying.
Providing Details About the Missing Person
When speaking with the police officer, stay as calm as possible in the circumstances. Give them the details about the disappearance, including the last time and place the person was seen, and a clear, accurate physical description of the missing person.
Details like age, height, weight and hair/eye color will be required, as well as any other information available that may distinguish the missing person from others. This includes scars, tattoos, glasses, haircut or hairstyle, and the items of clothing the person was wearing when last seen. It is a good idea to offer photographs of the missing person to the police as well.
The police may ask for additional information, and the person making the report should fully cooperate to the extent they can. For example, if a young adult is missing, the police may ask for names of their friends, boyfriends or girlfriends, and their activities earlier in the day. It is sometimes possible to locate a person through cell phone activity, so provide the cell phone number, if the missing person had one. Tell the police about any mental or physical issues the missing person had that might make them more vulnerable.
Reporting Missing Persons to the NCIC
If the missing person is under 18, report their disappearance to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The NCIC gathers information, allowing other law enforcement to access information about missing children and search for them. The Alabama police may help to get the missing person’s name into the NCIC database, but it is also possible to contact the NCIC directly at: 800-843-5678.
Alabama's Fusion Center also gathers information about missing children and issues AMBER Alerts for abducted children. It issues Emergency Child Alerts for children who are missing and believed in danger, and Missing and Endangered Person Alerts for anyone who is missing and believed to be in danger.
Reporting Missing Persons to FBI
While the first call should be made to the local Alabama police, it is also possible to contact the FBI to assist in looking for the missing person. The federal agency is more likely to get involved if the person is a minor, or there is evidence that they are missing due to foul play or suspicious circumstances.
The report to the FBI is made in the same way as the police report. It starts with a call to the agency that provides them with information about the disappearance as well as personal information. Find the closest FBI field office by looking online at the state department website for child abductions.
Notifying Alabama Missing Report
The Alabama Missing Report is an online service that lists missing persons in states across the United States and also in countries around the world. It was founded to provide organized and complete information about those people who are reported missing, whether or not the police have yet begun searching.
The more people that know about a missing person, the more likely it is that someone will spot them. Members of the public can share any reports of missing people with the Missing Report. They publish this information on social media as well as their online website.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.