BUCKHANNON — Upshur County experienced a missing child case on Wednesday, March 30, causing all available county and state responders to join the search. The 13-year-old girl went missing in the Heaston Ridge area. Luckily, with the quick thinking of her parents and with help from local law enforcement utilizing all resources, the girl was safely found shortly after. With that said, it is important to know what to do if your child goes missing.
According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC), as of December 31, 2019, the NCIC had nearly 87,500 active missing person records. Youth under the age of 18 account for 35% of the records, and 44% of the missing person records are people under 21. Missing person records are retained indefinitely—unless a missing individual is located or the reporting agency cancels the entry.
During 2019, law enforcement agencies across the country entered more than 609,000 missing person records. During the same time period, reporting agencies canceled more than 607,000 records. It is also reported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that the recovery rate is approximately 97% with a majority of cases being resolved within hours.
The FBI, NCIC, NCMEC and other agencies local and national have compiled lists of what to do in the case of a missing child. The first step is to always notify your local law enforcement. It is highly recommended this is your first step before further looking for the child. Law enforcement agencies are also required to immediately report a missing child to the NCIC Missing Person file and there is not a waiting period for anyone under the age of 18. Additionally, officers will place a Be on the Look Out (BOLO) bulletin to nearby police jurisdictions.
Following the key step of alerting the authorities, the second step is to be prepared to provide detailed information regarding your child. Safewise.com provided the following list.
• Child’s full name
• Child’s weight
• Child’s height
• Child’s age and date of birth
• Clothes the child was last seen wearing
• Identifying features, like glasses or a birthmark
• Names and contact information of the child’s friends or close acquaintances
• Frequently visited hangout spots
• Health issues the child has
• Any other possibly relevant details about the time or place the child went missing
Also be ready to share pictures that are most recent and display distinguishable traits.
The third step in to search in the immediate area. Look in closets, under beds, piles of laundry, around vehicles, and inside appliances. Also be able to provide any social media account information to law enforcement. Sometimes a child may leave digital clues.
Step four is to always be available. Keep phone lines open and make sure to obtain and keep records of all numbers and names of investigating officers in an accessible area. Step five is to notify the NCMEC as they can often provide further assistance and support. Additionally, NCMEC provides information about protective measures like wearable GPS devices to decrease the risk of disappearance.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) recommends that you take care of yourself if your child is missing. The OJJDP stated, “Take good care of yourself and your family, because your child needs you to be strong. As hard as it may be, force yourself to get rest, eat nourishing food, and talk to someone about your tumultuous feelings.” The OJJDP also recommended that parents work with law enforcement agencies to schedule press releases and media events. If necessary, ask someone close to the parent to serve as a media spokesperson.
To contact law enforcement dial 911. The Upshur County Sheriff’s office can be reached by calling (304) 472-1182.