What to do when a loved one goes missing

Do these things immediately when a loved one goes missing

Any parent will tell you that there is no worse feeling than thinking you’ve lost a child. While this sensation is usually followed by intense relief as the child is located, there are times when, tragically, a child – or another loved one – really does go missing. If this happens, you need to know exactly what to do right away because every minute matters.

Report the missing person to the police RIGHT AWAY

You can report the missing person to your nearest South African Police Service (SAPS) station or to the National Bureau of Missing Persons (click here to find a download link for their contact details). The SAPS want you to know that there is no waiting period to report a missing person. As soon as you realise that a child or adult is missing, report this to the police right away.

The police list the following considerations for reporting a missing person:

  • Produce a recent photograph of the missing person if possible.
  • Give a complete description of the missing person’s appearance, last whereabouts, clothes they were wearing, who they were with, and any other information that may assist the investigating officer.
  • You will be asked to complete and sign a SAPS 55(A) form. This safeguards the SAPS from hoax reports and indemnifies them to distribute the photograph and information about the missing person.
  • Obtain the investigating officer’s contact details and send them any additional information that might become available.
  • If the missing person is found or returns voluntarily, inform the investigating officer immediately. A SAPS 92 form must be completed so that the police can instruct the Bureau of Missing Persons to remove the missing person’s report from their systems.
  • After you have alerted the authorities, there are many things you can do yourself to try to locate your missing loved one.

Ask for help on social media

Social media is enormously useful. You can contact the Pink Ladies, who distribute verified information about missing people on social media networks. And you can create your own alert to post. Include a recent photo and relevant identifying information, and don’t forget to add contact details – don’t count on people being able to find you on social media. Share the post to your neighbourhood WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages – as well as to those of the area in which your loved one disappeared.

Visit the relevant communities yourself

Don’t rely on social media as your only point of access to the various communities. Make posters and hang signs in the relevant areas as well. There’s no such thing as overkill when trying to find a missing person.

Contact anyone who knows the missing person

Contact all the missing person’s friends, colleagues and any extended family, and examine their social media profiles for any clue to their whereabouts. If you get any leads, share them immediately with your investigating officer.

Useful advanced and preventative measures

If the missing person has a cell phone, the police will contact the cell phone companies to use the IMEI number to see if they can track the phone. This is a number that allows the phone to be located even if the SIM card has been removed – as long as it’s turned on.

However, you can keep your family safe by installing an app such as MiBlackBox onto all of your phones, to access a record of their movements real-time and historic up to 48 hours. It also has a panic button function that will send an instant recording using either voice or video along with the location to emergency contacts allowing them to respond accordingly.

Stay safe

No one ever wants to have to deal with the terror of an abduction. While it’s good to know what you should do if something happens to a loved one, you should also do your best to help them avoid becoming a victim. Advances in technology have made it possible to know where your family is and give them the tools to call for help if they are concerned. Be careful, be safe, but be ready.