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Response to AmyStrange (Original post)

Wed Jan 27, 2021, 08:00 AM

141. Police should prioritise [sic] missing adults over children, new study suggests

 

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Police should prioritise [sic] missing adults over children, new study suggests
Analysis of more than 90,000 missing person reports found adults were four times more likely to come to harm than children
By Martin Evans, CRIME CORRESPONDENT 3 January 2021


Police searching for missing people should prioritise adults over children because they are more likely to come to harm, a Cambridge University study has suggested.

Researchers who examined more than 90,000 missing person reports over an 11-year period found that those over the age of 18 were four times more likely to come to harm than youngsters.

In England and Wales a person is reported missing every two minutes and while the vast majority of those turn up safe and well, investigating each case puts a huge strain on police resources.

Every missing person case is assessed by a police officer as high, medium or low risk, with the person’s age playing a big part in deciding which category to assign.

But of the 92,681 reports examined for the study, 89 percent of high risk cases ended with the person being found safe and well, while almost 60 percent of cases, where the person was harmed, were initially classified as low or medium risk.

The data also revealed that the chances of a young person coming to harm when they went missing was four times lower than when an adults in their 30s disappeared.

The Cambridge study suggests that a more evidence based approach to assessing risk could help save time and money and could also even reduce the number of people who do come to harm when they go missing.

Superintendent Ryan Doyle from Devon and Cornwall Police, who carried out the research as part of a Masters degree in criminology, said he hoped the findings would help forces design a better system for dealing with missing person reports.

He said: “In Devon and Cornwall, missing people is one of the big areas of business we deal with, it is something that affects all our staff on a daily basis.

“The way missing people are assessed is from an investigative mindset where you ask the questions and then there is essentially a gut feeling from officers based on the information they have got from asking questions and what I wanted to understand was, was that the right way of doing it.

“The amount of resources we put into a high risk missing person is clearly going to be different to the amount of resources we put into a low risk missing person so it is really important that we get it right and are as accurate as possible in determining that.”

He said while it was vital to allow officers to use their “instinct” when handling a case, an evidence based approach was likely to have a better success rate than relying on subjective judgments.

Superintendent Doyle said while it was entirely understandable that an officer’s instinct was to respond more urgently when a young person went missing there were numerous other factors that needed to be assessed before the risk factor was calculated.

He said: “The percentage of juvenile males who come to harm is around one percent, while it is two percent for females. We are talking about really low numbers of those who come to harm.”

Other important factors that can help calculate the chances of someone coming to harm include the gender of the person and whether they had gone missing before.

Supt Doyle said: “If someone is suicidal then obviously whatever their age , they are going to be high risk, but there are other factors that you are going to want to know.

“For example if they are male and 35 and this is the first time they have gone missing then we need to be more worried than if they are 35 and female and have gone missing for the first time.

“Conversely if they are female and this is the eighth time they have gone missing then we need to be more worried than if they are male and this is the eighth time they have gone missing.”

He stressed that while the data was hugely valuable in calculating risk, there would always be a need for the experience and instinct of an officer making a subjective judgment.

“I don’t want to completely remove the subjective because the art of that investigative mindset is really, really important in policing.

“You don’t want to just punch numbers into a computer, you need to have that mix of evidence based and subjective investigative experience.”


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https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/01/03/police-should-prioritise-missing-adults-children-new-study-suggests/
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