The procedure for filing a missing person report is not something most individuals want to have to learn. The idea of having someone just disappear – whether a missing child or an older person with a medical condition – is the stuff of nightmares. Still, these things do happen, and it pays to get an overview of what to do under state procedures in a missing person case.
Anyone living in Tennessee should get an overview of what law enforcement requires to file a missing person report in the state.
Missing Person Case
People go missing for different reasons. Children may wander away. A teen may run off to spend time with a friend. An adult's car may break down or they just forget to check in. But there are many sinister reasons for people going missing, as well.
Missing children may have become victims of criminals. Senior adults may have fallen sick or just fallen and be unable to get up. People may have been killed or died from suicide. The sooner the police can start looking, the more likely it is that there will be a positive outcome.
Missing Persons in Tennessee
Each state has similar procedures for a missing person case. Generally, several law enforcement agencies become involved, and their procedures can vary slightly. But all require the same type of information: essentially what the person looks like, age, complexion, hair and eye color, items of clothing they were last seen wearing, height, weight and state of mind.
For example, law enforcement will want to know if the person was experiencing depression or had discussed ending their life.
It is important to notify police quickly with this kind of information so that the matter doesn't turn into a cold case. Law enforcement in Tennessee will also want to know where the person was last seen and if other family members have been contacted.
Missing Person Resources
Tennessee takes missing person reports seriously and provides both state and local enforcement resources to state residents. They routinely enter a victim's information into the National Crime Information Center, which allows federal law enforcement to join in the search.
When someone goes missing, their family, friends, roommates or coworkers can use resources available through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. These are national organizations dedicated to finding missing children and adults.
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a private, nonprofit organization that serves as the national clearinghouse and resource center for information about missing and exploited children.
It runs a national toll-free hotline, 800-THE-LOST, which has received more than 5 million calls over its years of operation. They have helped law enforcement in the recovery of more than 376,000 missing children.
National Missing and Unidentified Persons System
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a national clearinghouse and resource center for missing person cases across the United States, as well as unidentified person cases. They can provide technology, forensic services and investigative support to resolve missing person cases.
Law Enforcement Technologies
Typically, police and investigators use license plate scanners, online databases, social media and interviews to gather information on where a missing person might be located. Police departments can also obtain search warrants to review a missing person's cell phone records and social media accounts to see when the person was last active online, or if they had been planning to leave voluntarily.
Also, law enforcement uses a system known as Technology to Recover Abducted Kids (TRAK) to create and distribute flyers with relevant information to other jurisdictions, the media and community groups. It is quick (five to 10 minutes) and simple to create a flyer with a TRAK system, which contributes directly to the TRAK system success.
Nearly 500 police departments in 23 states use TRAK for a variety of purposes, including missing persons cases, runaways, elderly missing persons and finding people with mental illnesses or disabilities.
Steps to Follow in Tennessee
Confirm that the person is missing by first checking with other family members and friends where that person might be. Contact the police department to file a missing person report. Larger jurisdictions like the Memphis Police Department maintain dedicated missing person units within the investigative services branch, available at 901-545-COPS (901-545-2677).
Collect evidence and information after contacting the authorities. Gather photographs of the missing person, and their work or school schedules. Prepare a list of friends and contacts. Locate any electronic devices such as phone and computers belonging to the person and give these to the investigators when they arrive.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigations
Contact the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations at 800-TBI-FIND (800-824-3463) if the missing person is a child. The TBI is the Tennessee state version of the FBI and has a missing child unit.
Their Missing Persons Clearinghouse is overseen by the TBI Criminal Intelligence Unit within the Tennessee Fusion Center, established in 1993 to provide a central location for resources to identify and assist local, state and national efforts to locate Tennessee’s missing persons.
The person making the report should be sure to talk with the police investigators handling the report. Although this may be difficult and sad, it is essential for the police to get family and friend's input. They may also want to examine a relevant home or vehicle, and speak with other family members regarding the missing person.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. 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 MA and an MFA in English/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.