This video looks at how we find missing persons, and our Q&As below and at the link will clear up some common misperceptions.
You can follow the Alliance Operations department on Twitter at @AllianceOpsDept where we welcome your comments and queries.
Q: How many people go missing in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset?
A: Dorset had 3,397 occurrences of a person going missing over the past 12 months (Aug 16-July 17)
In Devon and Cornwall for the same amount of time (Feb 15 – Jan 16) the figure is 5,151
It should be noted that the same person could go missing more than once over the specified period.
This represents a significant proportion of police work.
Q: Does a person have to be missing for more than 24 hours before the police can be notified?
A: No. There is no minimum amount of time that you need to wait to report a missing person, and if the missing person is a child, elderly person or someone with an unstable mental state or otherwise vulnerable, you should alert the police immediately.
If the person is simply late returning home, or late for an appointment, contact the person or the last known place they were. After doing this, you should wait a reasonable amount of time before contacting the police.
Q: If I think someone has gone missing, how do I get in touch with the police?
A: If you have reasonable cause to believe that the missing person is at risk of harm or is vulnerable, call 999. Otherwise you can email 101 Devon and Cornwall or 101 Dorset, which will be received by our contact centre staff at any time of the night or day and does not involve waiting for your 101 call (also available) to be answered. Include as much information as you can in your email and a phone number that you can be called back on.
Q: How long does it usually take the police to find a missing person?
A: As you will see in our video, police will continue an active search until there is no viable chance of locating the person. Appeals to the public will continue for some time after this. National charity Missing People states that most missing people are found safe and well within 72 hours.
Q: Do police work with other organisations when searching for missing persons?
A: Devon, Cornwall and Dorset have unique terrains, not least in the amount of coastline and so one important partner organisation is HM Coastguard. Police also work with volunteer groups with local knowledge such as Dartmoor Rescue Group (there are many others).
Q: What other resources can be called on when searching for missing persons?
A: As well as the resources belonging to partner organisations, police can call on the services of the National Police Air Service (NPAS) which would be a helicopter equipped with powerful cameras and search light, and Alliance Ops is now home to the UK’s first operational police drone unit. To read more visit the Use of Drones page and the Safe Drone course information page.
Q: Do police always put out a public appeal (via social media etc.) for every missing person? How helpful is information from the general public?
A: If the person is found quickly (see above) following the initial report then no, but if the person cannot be found, or if they are known to be at risk of harm or are vulnerable then this will be done as soon as possible. Sightings by members of the public are vital in helping police locate missing people and are very much valued.
Q: I think I’ve seen the person in a missing person appeal. What do I do?
A: Police appeals will be on our websites, social media and also on the websites, social media, broadcast and print output of the regions media. Look for the preferred method of contact given in the appeal (101 email or phone or 999 phone if it’s urgent) and use that, remembering to quote the log number which will be included with the appeal. That way your report will be recognised quickly and allocated to the right officers.