AROUND 5,000 people are reported missing in Nottinghamshire every year.
Some are temporarily disorientated or have an illness, others voluntarily go missing, and some may be under the influence of a third party or have left home against their will.
But in most cases, officers involved in the hunt for missing persons say they often disappear of their own accord.
Said Emma Adams, Nottinghamshire Police’s missing person’s manager: “Vulnerable people cause us the most concern; either children and young people or vulnerable adults - those with illnesses or mental health problems, for example.
“Many of these people will go missing repeatedly and by doing so put themselves at risk of harm.”
During a missing person’s investigation, time is of the essence and officers have to act swiftly.
They begin by researching the person’s last known whereabouts as well as offering comfort and support to their family.
Miss Adams said: “It is often a significant concern and worry for the family – usually they have made their own attempts to find the person before calling the police, and they will be quite distressed by the time they contact us.
“We try to support them as much as we can but we do make them aware of the fact that it’s a missing person’s investigation, and there are procedures we have to follow - including robust questioning and searches of houses.
“This is not pleasant but hopefully they understand why we have to do it.”
One of the first steps taken is to speak to those who are close to the missing person and know them well.
Added Miss Adams: “If a teenager goes missing for example, it’s essential to speak to their friends as there are often important details their parents will not be aware of.
“We have to establish any patterns or changes in behaviour that can give us vital clues about whether or not they have gone missing voluntarily and the risks they may face.”
It is routine to search the person’s home address and the last place they were seen, including their workplace.
“We look for letters, diaries; anything that is relevant in their life that can help us understand why they have gone missing in the first place,” said Miss Adams.
“We will question ‘have they taken their belongings with them? Have they made any preparations for their absence?’”
Miss Adams said that people choose to leave their homes for a variety of different reasons.
“If someone has gone missing intentionally it is usually an indicator that something is going wrong in their life,” she said.
“For children and young people, it may be bullying or problems at school. But there can be all kinds of triggers - like a family breakdown, drug and alcohol misuse, loss of a job, or bereavement.
“Sometimes we find people go missing on anniversaries of significant events in people’s lives, at a time when they fell like they can’t cope.”
In some high-risk cases, officers will use additional policing tools to try to locate missing people, including specialist police search advisors, police dogs and the helicopter unit.
The average policing cost for every missing person report is £1,000, which equates to more than £5m in police activity every year in Nottinghamshire.
“This is a significant cost to the organisation,” added Miss Adams. “But while many people are thankfully found safe and well, because of the potential for the risk of harm we have to respond seriously and robustly to each call we receive.
“The vast majority of people are either found or return of their own accord within 24 hours. There are a number who go missing for two or three days and a smaller number who are missing for more than a month.”
Recent analysis shows that 35 per cent of frequent missing under 18s become victims of crime, and 32 per cent are themselves offenders.
Added Miss Adams: “It is key that we try to reduce incidents of the same people going missing repeatedly by addressing the root cause.
“The underlying problems that can often lead to someone leaving home are not resolved simply because we have found them and brought them home.
“We work pro-actively with our partner agencies to share information and make sure that people who are vulnerable get the help and support they need. Only by doing this can we can reduce the likelihood of them going missing again.”