20 March 2013
Last updated at 04:14
Police in England and Wales are to stop sending officers to every report of a missing person to help focus resources on cases where people are most at risk.
There are about 900 reports a day of those whose whereabouts are unknown and police have to investigate each one.
Senior officers say this blanket policy drains resources.
From April, police will launch a full investigation only for people whose disappearance is out of character or who are thought to be at risk.
Police deal with about 327,000 reports of missing people every year, with two-thirds of them involving children.
Chief Constable Pat Geenty, of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said that when a missing call was received, officers were dispatched “irrespective of the case” which was “a huge demand on police resources”.
Under the new approach, police call handlers will divide reports into two categories.
People who are simply not where they are expected to be will be termed “absent” and the cases will be monitored.
Where there is a specific reason for concern, they will be classed as “missing” – prompting an investigation.
Pilots of the approach by Greater Manchester, West Midlands and Staffordshire Police showed officers focused more on higher-risk incidents and saved thousands of officer hours over a three-month period.
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The length of time a child goes missing is irrelevant because they can fall into the clutches of abusers very quickly”
About a third of missing person cases were likely to be classed “absent”, figures from the pilots suggested.
Mr Geenty said police were, at times, used as a “collection service” for children who went missing from care homes and urged staff at homes to “act as responsible parents”.
They should “do the initial work that’s required in terms of trying to find out where the missing individual is and then, if they have concerns, ring the police”, he said.
Each force will have a missing persons co-ordinator whose responsibilities will include finding out if children are going missing regularly.
But the NSPCC said it was concerned the new definition of a “missing” person would “put vulnerable children at risk of being groomed and sexually exploited”.
“The length of time a child goes missing is irrelevant because they can fall into the clutches of abusers very quickly,” head of policy David Tucker said.
“Children go missing for a variety of reasons – they may be bullied, abused or are generally unhappy. But whatever the reason, this problem must be taken seriously.”
Police shake-up over missing person cases – BBC News
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