Movies about missing persons make for great entertainment: it has a complex plot, has suspense, and a lot of action. These films may present facts about missing persons; however, there are people who know better what it’s like to lose a loved one because of abduction or murder, and these stories are more horrifying to them than the majority can even dare fathom.
It’s not easy to lose someone or hold on to hope to something that may only end in despair, especially considering the vast numbers of people who experience this at any time.
Important Facts about Missing Persons in the United States
In 1980, roughly 150,000 people are reported missing in the US. Today’s numbers can go as high up as 900,000 every year. Of the 692,903 people reported in 2010, the National Crime Information Center noted that 355,243 were reported to be women, while the remaining 335,550 are men. Out of these numbers, almost 532,000 were under the age of 18. Of the missing adults, half are white, 30 percent are African-American, and 20 percent are Latino.
Before we go over more facts about missing persons in the US, we have to know what exactly it is we’re tackling. How does the law define “missing person”?
U.S. Legal Definitions defines a “missing person” as one who is “18 years or older, whose disappearance is possibly not voluntary.” It could also be defined as a child whose whereabouts are unknown to the child’s legal custodian. In the United States, there are about as many as 100,000 active missing person cases at any given time.
In the US, approximately 2,300 children and adults are reported missing every day. Even though the numbers seem massive, this still does not include those that vanish in other countries, unreported cases, or the homeless and their children.
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Minorities, people who experience mental disorders, and substance abusers who go missing also receive little attention. This is because authorities, the press, and the public hold little sympathy for them. In fact, scholars noted that media focuses more on women—notably white women—who go missing due to their obsession with “damsels in distress.” People are said to often be interested in cases wherein young, beautiful, usually blonde girls are abducted. This obsession has been pegged as the “missing white women syndrome.” However, those with drug and alcohol addiction, psychiatric problems, and elderly persons suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease make up the bulk of missing adult cases.
Missing persons cases receive low priority for police officers. One of most disheartening facts about missing persons is that authorities usually prioritize working homicides, robberies, rapes and assaults, traffic issues, and crime prevention over missing people alerts. However, Frank Ahearn, a skiptracer or a person who is hired to find others, said that people intentionally go missing for one of two reasons: money or danger. While men usually leave because of money, women do so because of danger. The bulk of intentional disappearances were once men, but more and more woman choose to bail out nowadays.
DB Cooper remains as one of the most interesting cases in the US. On November 24, 1971, he hijacked Northwest Airlines Flight 305. Upon the arrival of his requested $200,000 and several parachutes, he jumped from the plane and into the night. To this day, nobody knows about his whereabouts or if he even survived. The case is said to be the only unsolved air piracy in commercial aviation history.
People who have been missing for 7 years can be declared dead in absentia. This means that they are presumed dead. However, the time can be reduced in different cases, such as those who are fighting in battle, or are victims of mass disasters.
There are different ways of finding missing persons. Computer forensics examines files on the computer of a missing person or his suspected abductor. Physical evidence looks into DNA samples. Forensic psychology has experts interpreting body language and verbal cues. Police also caution families against scammers and psychics who claim to have knowledge regarding the fate of a loved one, as they are usually highly unreliable.
Forensic artists can be called to help draft an age-progression photo. They use techniques that show what a person could look like over time. However, not all artists can be forensic experts, a forensic artist should also have knowledge about how the face changes as it gets older, so that they can detail it properly (i.e. show which parts of the face sags and expands, to begin with). While having a photo of the biological parents can be of great help in age progression, a child must be 1 to 18 months old and missing for at least two years before he or she can be successfully progressed by an artist.
For endangered or involuntary missing persons cases, the FBI designates urgent protocols. About 15 percent of missing person cases are given such a classification every year, most of which applied to children.
War veterans also have a high rate of missing persons. Over 83,000 Americans were said to be missing from the WWII, Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and even the 1991 Gulf War. Of these numbers, 73,000 Americans who served in the WWII are still unaccounted for, 7,500 remain missing from the Korean War, and 1,600 from the Vietnam War are still not found.
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