Investigating Missing Persons Cases

By: Venton Blandin
By: Venton Blandin

October 5, 2006

Nothing stirs public interest like the disappearance of someone from a community.

In a small college town like Charlottesville, when it involves a child, or student everyone hopes to resolve the situation quickly.

Here is a look into how university police respond when a student is missing.

Whether it is a frantic phone call from a mother wanting her child home safely, or a voice mail from a father saying he knows something is wrong; University of Virginia police say it is all they need to look for a missing person.

"The first step is to take a report, and find out what the circumstances of the situation are. From that point, you can go further to investigate the situation," said University of Virginia Police Captain Michael Coleman.

The key to finding a missing person is speed and organization. Knowing where the missing person lives will get both.

"If that jurisdiction is the University of Virginia we will take that report. If the person is living in some other jurisdiction, we will help them report that some other jurisdiction," added Captain Coleman.

The report collects all the information needed by state police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

"The form itself works as a checklist because it has all the items, and information that you need to get that kind of investigation," added Captain Coleman.

UVa is the second home for 20,000 students.

Despite having 20,000 reasons to do so, UVa police say they often do not have to look for a missing person

"We very rarely have a missing person report. It is not something that is very common here at all," added Captain Coleman.

Police with the city of Charlottesville get about six calls a week for a missing person. Albemarle County police say they get only a few more.

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