What the police are doing to look for me

Many people want to know more about what the police will do when looking for them while they are missing. The extent of the police search and the way they conduct their investigation will depend on how much risk or danger they believe you to be at. 

What will they do?

If you have gone missing in what they consider suspicious or unexplained circumstances, or if they are worried about your safety, the search may be quite broad. It could include some or all of the following;

  • Trying to get in touch with you directly;
  • Asking Missing People to get in touch with you;
  • A detailed search of the area from where you left;
  • Checking your home address for any information that might help their search;
  • Speaking to your family, friends and possibly colleagues to understand what has been going on for you recently;
  • Speaking to any professionals who you have been in contact with like social services or health professionals;
  • Arranging a publicity appeal on social media or in other media;
  • In some very extreme cases, checking your phone’s locations or your bank accounts although this is rare.

In other situations, where the police do not believe you to be at serious risk their search may be less active. They will normally search the address where you have been reported missing from and then they may just try to contact you and speak to your family and possibly friends to understand what is happening and where you might be in the first instance. They will then consider taking actions as detailed above but will focus on the least intrusive actions first and will decide on a risk level basis what is appropriate. In all cases the police will make a record and frontline officers may be keeping an eye out for you as well as asking your family or carers to let them know if you get in touch.

When anyone is reported missing the police have to make contact with them to check that they are safe, well and not at any risk of harm. However, the police don’t want to force people to go home. They simply want to check that they’re okay.

Will I be in trouble?

Going missing is not an offence.  Adults over the age of 18 have the right to go missing unless they have been detained under the Mental Health Act, or are legally in the care of another person. Children have to be searched for and returned to a place of safety but going missing is not a crime for them either. The police and any other professionals involved should always just be trying to support and make you safe.

What happens if I am found?

If you are an adult and don’t want to return home and don’t want to be considered as a missing person you will still need to speak to the police so they can close the case. If they think you are safe and don’t need any further support they will end their investigation and shouldn’t pass any information about where you are to your family or friends if you don’t want them to. This confidence will only be breached if they don’t think you’re safe and they have a duty to get you support.


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