12,000+ missing reports in busy 2020 for our Locate Teams
We helped reunite thousands of missing people with their loved ones during a busy 2020 for our specialist Locate Teams.
During the year we recorded a total of 12,669 missing people reports - that’s roughly one every 40 minutes.
Almost 1,500 of these were graded High Risk meaning there was very serious concerns about the person’s wellbeing.
They would include young children, elderly people with dementia or another vulnerability, someone experiencing a mental health crisis or a person who is believed to be a self-harm or suicide risk.
The oldest “misper" report we had last year was a 97-year-old man and the youngest a baby just a few weeks old.
Michelle Ryan is one of three Detective Inspectors running Locate Teams based in Solihull and Wednesfield.
She said: “When a missing person report comes in our response units will carry our quick-time enquiries, searching the location, known addresses, contacting family and friends and making checks with hospitals.
“But if that draws a blank it will be handed over to us to continue the investigation. And in the case of high risk missing people it can be a race against time."
One of those cases involved the disappearance of a 29-year-old woman on 28 May last year. She told family she was in pain and was going to a hospital; she never arrived and her family reported her missing.
Det Insp Phil Poole from the Locate Team in Wednesfield led the investigation.
He said: “We couldn’t find any proof of life and her family were deeply concerned. It was a really challenging case as she had no trackable assets, no phone, car or bank card.
“We can carry out financial enquiries to see if there is movement on a person’s accounts and also look to see where their mobile phone is ‘pinging’. But that wasn’t an option in this case.
“We ran some social media appeals which saw us keep generating some leads and potential sightings. Our officers were going street-to-street, checking CCTV, knocking doors.
“Finally we got a breakthrough when one resident reported concerns about a derelict house in Smethwick. We searched it and found the woman collapsed. She was close to death, malnourished and dehydrated.
“She was taken to hospital in a critical condition but thankfully is making a good recovery. Jobs like that really lift the team, it’s what we come to work for. A vulnerable woman was rescued and reunited with her family.
“They couldn’t thank us enough; we were delighted to help and relieved there was a happy ending."
Of the 12,686 people reported missing last year, 12,669 were located. Some, sadly, were found dead while enquiries continue in the other cases.
The Locate Teams comprise three Detective Inspectors - one of whom oversees historic cases looking for new leads - alongside 12 sergeants and 52 PCs and DCs. They are supported by six police staff investigators.
The teams work from 7am until 3am every day.
Det Insp Ryan said their work also involves not just finding people but getting to the bottom of why someone has disappeared and trying to prevent future missing episodes.
She added: “A lot of our work is around missing children; some of those are repeat mispers who may disappear every few days.
“We have an Intervention & Prevention team that works with local authority child services and our investigation teams to see if there is a criminal explanation, for instance the child being groomed by County Lines gangs.
“We’ll also work with mental health services to get people support and have also helped provide tracking devices to families of elderly relatives with dementia to help us trace them should they go missing."