North Coast police dispel missing persons myths
POLICE from the Tweed-Byron LAC have dealt with 77 missing persons reports so far in 2015 and solved each case.
Circumstances of the discoveries were not always happy endings, but Inspector Brendon Cullen said their loved ones could find closure even in the most heartbreaking of situations.
"Sometimes we find them in unfortunate circumstances, but the majority of times we are able to reunite families," he said.
"Families want to get answers about where their loved ones have gone. It's a natural reaction."
Authorities are using Missing Persons Week to dispel several myths about reporting the disappearance of a friend or loved one.
In particular, they hope to break one falsehood from the public psyche.
"The theme of this year's Missing Persons Week is 'follow your instincts'," Insp Cullen said.
- You do not have to wait 24 hours before reporting someone as missing
- When a missing person is located, their whereabouts will not be released to the person who reported them missing, unless permission is granted
- Going missing is not a crime
- About 35,000 people are reported missing in Australia each year - one person every 15 minutes
- 99.5% of people are located - 85% within a week of being reported missing
- About one third of missing persons go missing more than once
- Roughly two-thirds of missing persons are younger than 18
"If you suspect a friend or family member has gone missing, for whatever reason, take action, follow your instincts and tell the police
"There is no set time period you should wait. You don't have to wait 24 hours."
Richmond LAC investigations manager Bernadette Ingram has seen first-hand the grief families endure when their loved ones vanish.
Quite often, suspicions of foul play are misplaced and the missing person simply does not want to be found.
She recalled a recent case of a young runaway who had been missing for four years.
"It was heartbreaking to the family," she said.
"Because it had been so many years, they were very worried about their daughter.
"It turned out she just didn't want to have contact with her family."
Police have stressed it is not a crime to go missing, and no charges will be laid against a person for intentionally vanishing if they later choose to make their whereabouts known.
"One message in that experience is that it's important to let your friends and family know you're okay, even if you don't want to be found," Detective Acting Inspector Ingram said.
"You can send a message and you don't have to do it personally - it can be through a third party.
"It was tough for us, because we have to keep in regular contact with the next of kin and it took a lot of resources to find her.
"We had real concerns about her welfare."
Breaking the news to the girl's next of kin was an ordeal in itself, but worth the effort.
"Now they can move on and accept the situation," she said.
"They're no longer left wondering whether she is okay, and they were left in limbo for a very long time."
If you suspect a friend or family member has gone missing, you do not have to wait 24 hours to take action, follow your instincts and report the matter to police immediately.