‘Call 911’: How to help police in missing persons cases

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — When it comes to finding a missing person, investigators often look to the public for help. Whether it’s pictures shared in the news or posted on a police department’s social media page, police want extra eyes in the hopes of bringing people home quicker.

While Montgomery County police have more than a thousand officers on the lookout for missing people, members of the public can be incredibly helpful in closing the case, said search manager Officer Jason Huggins — especially if those extra lookouts lead to tips.

“I’d rather have a million sets of eyes than 1,200; I’d rather chase down a bunch of people who aren’t them,” Huggins said.

There are also things good Samaritans have done that can actually hamper an investigation, even if they are trying to help the missing individuals they encounter, Huggins said.

High on that list of things not to do is not calling 911 as soon as you encounter someone you believe may be missing.

“If you find someone and you believe there is something wrong or they’re missing, please just call 911,” Huggins said.

“Don’t try and get them where they need to go. Don’t drop them off somewhere.”

Huggins cited a recent case in which a man who went missing from Bethesda, Maryland, was taken to a hospital in Manassas, Virginia, by a good Samaritan.

The man was found safe, but concerned loved ones had to wait longer than necessary before police and doctors were able to connect the dots.

For those who believe a loved one is missing, Huggins said they should call police immediately. In Montgomery County, a missing person can be out of the area in mere hours. Also, depending on factors such as a person’s overall health and weather conditions, their situation may be dire.

“The difference between calling in immediately and calling an hour later can be really life or death,” Huggins said.

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